Tower Bridge, London

Greater London Authority updates their air quality neutral guidance

Steven Lees Associate Air Quality Consultant
Steven Lees

Steven has over eleven years of experience in air quality, spanning both research and consultancy sectors. His research PhD focussed on the impacts of atmospheric nitrogen pollution on ecological conservation sites and their potential for recovery. Throughout his consultancy experience, Steven has gained experience of working with planning specialists, environmental regulators and developers. He has worked on various projects across the UK, from inception to permission, ranging from housing provision through to the development and extension of commercial and industrial premises. Such projects include large-scale garden village sites and inner-city development.

The London Plan (2021), published by the Greater London Authority (GLA), serves as a blueprint for future development and growth within London. Therefore, prospective developers will need to be aware of the various polices contained within the plan, including Policy SI 1: Improving air quality.  

The policy requires that “development proposals should at least be ‘air quality neutral’ and not lead to any further deterioration of existing poor air quality”. To this end, the GLA have very recently published updated guidance for determining whether a proposed development is considered to be air quality neutral.

The new guidance document provides a number of useful updates, including criteria relating to:

  • Excluded Development: Certain developments, irrelevant of size, can be excluded from undertaking an air quality neutral assessment where they meet specific design criteria relating to a zero-emission heating strategy and an absence of designated vehicle parking provision (with no change in vehicle trip generation).
  • Minor Development: Developments of a smaller scale, which conform to a zero or low emission heating strategy and meet the parking standards set out within policies T6 and T6.1 to T6.5 of the London Plan, can bypass the requirement for a full air quality neutral assessment, with a simplified assessment being deemed sufficient.   

Where prospective developments require a full air quality neutral assessment, the new guidance document stipulates a requirement to consider fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5µm or less (which are considered more dangerous to human health), rather than the previous requirement to consider fine particulate matter with a diameter of up to four times this size. Furthermore, phased developments will now need to undertake air quality neutral assessments for each phase, in addition to the development as a whole.

The building and transport emission benchmarks considered within an air quality neutral assessment have been calculated to be achievable and designed to be consistent with the energy and transport policies of the London Plan. Therefore, where a development cannot be considered air quality neutral, appropriate mitigation or offsetting will be required.

It is highly recommended that developers seek advice at the earliest stage in the design process, with regard to determining the air quality neutrality of a proposed London-based development. If you would like to discuss the above in more detail or would like to know whether your scheme requires an air quality neutral assessment under the new guidance, please get in touch.

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