New Clean Air Strategy - Group Leader's Comment - 18 January 2019

This latest Clean Air Strategy recognises clean air as the major public health challenge, since pollutants cause chronic diseases and shorten lives, costing health and care many millions every year.

We already have the Industrial Strategy, the Clean Growth Strategy and the 25 Year Environmental Plan.

This latest Clean Air Strategy recognises clean air as the major public health challenge, since pollutants cause chronic diseases and shorten lives, costing health and care many millions every year. The goal is to halve the harm to human health, by halving the number of people living in dangerously polluted areas by 2025, using the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

Current EU legislation already adopted gives 2013 and 2050 targets for reduction of five pollutants, including some particles and nitrous oxide. But, it seems the first step is to spend £10 million on assessing the current air quality and the impacts on human health. Next, is informing the public, working with the media; then encouraging people to reduce their contribution to pollution and enable some targeted local action.

Work on reducing sulphur dioxide from power stations and benzene from vehicles has been successful. The new target is for fine particles as recommended by the WHO, including those caused by a combination of other pollutants. This brings domestic hearth fires into the frame, for example, and the phasing out of coal and oil heating. The sale of petrol and diesel vehicles will end by 2040. And clean air zones are to lower pollution , combined with new local powers and enforcement that could be useful.

There is a helpful tool to estimate costs to health and social care. The total cost just for particulates and nitrogen dioxide is between £42 and £157 million. As we know, air pollution directly impacts the environment, reducing habitats, crop yields and animal health. If you listened to Radio 4 today, you will have heard about some remedial actions that include planting hedges along roadsides to gather the dust washed off in the rain.
The UK Research Institute has a £19.6 million research programme into cleaner technologies and runs a £5 million small business funding competition. Ammonia is the only pollutant to increase, perhaps following an increase in biodigesters. There are chapters on reducing emissions from farming, from industry, ports and rail.

What isn’t included is your live examples of how you and your council have tackled air pollution. Please can you share an example or two?

Also out this week

A new report from the National Audit Office on local authority governance flags concerns around value for money and perhaps surprisingly, it suggests the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) takes a “stronger leadership role across the governance network.”

The LGA has published its briefing on the NHS Long Term Plan and the areas that are most relevant to local government.

Finally, a reminder from the Campaign for Real Ale that the demolition or change of use of drinking establishments (Class A4 of the Use Classes Order) has required planning permission since 23 May 2017. There has been a growing trend for owners and agents to only contact building control rather than planning services when seeking consent to demolish. This means that buildings could be demolished without the necessary planning permissions. It may be worth checking that there is a process in place to ensure that the receipt of demolition notices (served under the Building Act 1984) is shared with the planning team in your authority.

Some useful links:


The Friday Information and Development session on scrutiny was excellent. Further information will be available on our website soon.

This week our Safer and Stronger Communities Board met to discuss trading standards and fire safety while our Children and Young People Board met to discuss social care, high needs funding, our spending review asks and mental health. The Culture, Tourism and Sport Board also met where members discussed the practicalities of the proposed tourism tax, drawing on your welcome comments to the think tank. They also discussed opportunities of social prescribing and how we can support partners to make this work. Have you got any good practice already underway in your areas?

A number of our members attended the LGA conferences on Finance last week, and Sustainable Transport and High Streets this week. Cllr Clarence Barrett produced a very useful note of the finance conference we attended. If you attend any useful events other members could benefit from do please share your notes and we share them with our think tanks or on our resources webpage.

You might want to pick some of these topics or speakers for your local events. View the full list of forthcoming LGA events and our regional group events.

Also this week, we four LGA Group Leaders met cross-party to help drive the LGA direction and oversee the major projects. Our office also prepared for the forthcoming Independent Group and LGA meetings.

We have had several very well attended Be a Councillor events, including Epsom and Ewell councillors and prospective Welsh councillors on Saturday. The offer is still open if you would like an event like this in your area.

I wish you all the very best in your council work and preparations for the next local elections. As you know, we at the office are always happy to help wherever we can.