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Air quality

Chapters in this topic

  1. Introduction
  2. Monitoring

Introduction

We are responsible for locating, monitoring and helping to improve air quality in Swale, based on the government’s Local Authority Air Quality Management (LAQM).

Air quality issues are set in our adopted Local Plan, Bearing Fruits and the Air Quality Technical Guidance (PDF 563kb). The main sources of air pollution come from vehicle emissions.

Swale has the largest automatic monitoring network in Kent, consisting of:

  • three automatic stations
  • a large number of NO2 diffusion tubes across the district
  • five Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)

You can download a map of our AQMAs (PDF 2.87MB).

We’ve also developed an Air Quality Action Plan, which sets out what we’re going to do to improve air quality over the next few years.

Our Annual Status Report shows how we’re doing in achieving. We send our status report to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) each year.

Pollutants

Polluted air contains substances that can be harmful to health, quality of life or the environment. Air pollution can be as obvious as bonfire smoke, but in many cases have no smell and cannot be seen. Each air pollutant can have both short-term and long-term health effects.

The pollutants measured in Swale are Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5). These pollutants are measured and compared to Air Quality Objective set by the Government and they provide a level or limit considered to be acceptable in terms of the effect on health or the environment.

Air quality objectives have been set under the National Air Quality Strategy with a view to ensuring an acceptable level of air quality for the public at large.

Visit GOV.UK to view the national air quality objectives.

Air quality management areas

An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) is a designated area where national limits for air pollutants are being exceeded. The area can be just one or two streets or much larger. If you live within an AQMA and you're selling your property this information may be declared if an environmental search is carried out.

Swale is not the only area to have an AQMA, over 200 local authorities have declared them within their district, in which the vast majority of these are for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Planning application and AQMAs

It is not our intention that AQMAs should stop development however each application for development will be considered for its potential impact on air quality on a case-by-case basis. More weight will therefore be given to air quality considerations, where developments would have significant adverse impacts on air quality inside, or close to the AQMAs and where proposals for sensitive developments (i.e. residential) could be adversely affected by poor air quality inside the AQMAs.

Living in an AQMA area

Overall air pollution from all sources, including road vehicles has declined over the past two decades. However for some roads within the AQMAs there has been an upward trend in results.  Furthermore, air quality standards specified to protect human health have become more stringent, but some roadside sites still generate what are considered significant amounts of pollution.

In terms of action, we’re extending our air quality-monitoring network for NOx diffusion tubes within the AQMAs to gain a clearer picture of the spatial extent of air pollution.

The current air quality action plans aim to reduce pollution to levels below set targets, through both strategic and local measures targeted at improving air quality in the designated AQMAs and across the borough as a whole.

Many actions required to reduce pollution levels are beyond our control we'll therefore liaise with relevant organisations such as Kent County Council and the highways authority to work towards achieving the necessary reductions. In conjunction, this council is conducting a further assessment to supplement information already collected and help focus measures in the Action Plan.

How long it lasts

The Action Plan will be drawn up over 18 months while the further assessment will be conducted over a period of 12 months from designation of the AQMAs. If exceedances still occur after measures to address air quality have been employed, this council will need to continue until it is certain that any future exceedances are unlikely. Even when levels fall below set targets and the AQMA can be revoked, this council will still need to ensure air quality issues maintain a high profile in the affected areas by meeting the requirements of the Air Quality Strategy.

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