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Consider CAZs for AQMAs, says Wales

Air Quality

22 August 2020

The Welsh Government wants councils to consider implementing clean air zone (CAZ) traffic restrictions in Air Quality Management Areas. 

Their use is encouraged in the Government’s new clean air plan. “We expect to see clean air zones established in towns and cities throughout Wales to reduce the impact of transport emissions on health. Some of these may be supported by a charging element.”

Unlike in England, no Welsh local authority has had to implement a CAZ to bring nitrogen dioxide concentrations into compliance with the EU legal limit value.  

A number of local authorities in Wales have declared Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) under the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) regime. This is a separate monitoring regime to that used for assessing compliance with EU limit values. 

Says the clean air plan: “The consultation on our [draft] Clean Air Zone Framework for Wales revealed the need for a clearer integration with the LAQM regime, and also further consideration of how clean air zones/low emission zones could be most effectively introduced in all parts of Wales.”

The final version of the CAZ Framework document will be published next spring. It will take into account the Welsh Government’s review of road user charging being undertaken by consultant Derek Turner (LTT 23 Mar). He will report this autumn.

A Welsh Government spokesman told LTT that CAZs would only be used in areas that have a recognised air quality problem. “It is not proposed that clean air zones be introduced in areas already meeting air quality standards and objectives, and which have not been identified as breaching Ambient Air Quality Directive limits.”   

A new Clean Air Act will include powers for clean air zones and low emission zones, and changes to the LAQM regime. 

The Government says the current LAQM arrangements “operate reactively, requiring actions where a problem area has already been identified as nearing or exceeding legal limits”. It wants the system to be “preventative, proactive and health-focused”. 

Under the new arrangements,  local authorities and Welsh ministers will agree a projected date for when an Air Quality Management Area will comply with air quality objectives.

Monitoring and action to reduce the smallest particulates – PM2.5 – is likely to be part of the new LAQM system. At the moment monitoring of PM2.5 is encouraged but not mandatory. 

The Clean Air Act will also contain strengthened powers to address road vehicle idling.

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