Under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995, West Somerset Council are required to regularly review and assess air quality in the area to assess the likelihood of an exceedance occurring from any of the prescribed air quality pollutants. If there is a risk of an exceedance, the Council must go to a more detailed assessment for that parameter. At present the reports conclude there is no need to go a more detailed assessment for any of these prescribed pollutants.
The reporting of air quality falls within the service delivery of Environmental Health, but it is of potential interest to other bodies associated with air quality management, and bodies whose actions may impact on air quality, such as those involved in planning, public health, consultants and transport officers.
Whilst no local air quality management area(s) have been designated, the latest report (Annual Status Report 2016) explains the actions being taken in West Somerset to improve air quality. It explains that actions are primarily delivered through planning e.g. for full travel plans to be adopted when based on the scale and use of development.
In the report it also explains the latest position with regard to the range of actions having been taken in the area Actions at Hinkley Point-C (the largest development in the area) have included limits being placed on parking at the site, the construction of 4 park and ride facilities, a new Campus type development, freight consolidation facilities located at junctions off the M5, a new jetty to be constructed etc.
The Annual Status Report (2016) also discusses the local priorities and challenges now faced, especially in seeking a general emission reductions, rather than the more traditional methods focused on just the pollution hot spots. The Council are working with public health colleagues to identify ways to do this. This general emission reduction approach is associated in particular with the wider health benefits from an exposure reduction approach to the small particulates fraction (PM2.5) for which it is thought there is no accepted threshold effect. It is thought that a reduction for of just 1ug/m3 PM2.5 will increase life expectancy from birth of that population exposed of about 20-days .
However, going forward it is accepted that by focusing resources at development control stage, will ignore the potential for larger emission reductions associated with actions being adopted voluntary by the wider community e.g. adoption of travel plans following best practice.
To get up to date information on air quality in this area there is an App available to download and is compatible with IPhone or Android devices (Ubreathe).