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Defra forced to rethink plan to scrap local air quality monitoring

Overwhelming public pressure has forced government to reconsider plans to scrap local air quality monitoring.The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today published a summary of responses and its reply to the controversial consultation on Local Air Quality Management.

Over 18,000 responses were received, from members of the public, local authorities and interested organisations, the majority of which were strongly opposed to removal of the responsibility to review and assess local air quality and to declare Air Quality Management Areas where legal limits are exceeded. Support was particularly strong from members of campaign group 38 degrees.

In addition to specific points around the proposals set out by Defra, respondents also objected to the sole focus on the role of local authorities when there was a clear need for stronger national action.

Maria Arnold from the Healthy Air Campaign says:

“Overwhelming public pressure has forced the government to rethink plans to scrap local authorities’ duties to monitor air quality. Their original proposal would have had devastating impacts on air quality and health, but a backlash from thousands of members of the public and local authorities has sent a strong message that they can’t solve our air quality crisis by turning a blind eye.

We will have to wait for the next set of proposals to see whether the message has really sunk in, but for now they appear to be listening.”

The process is a lengthy one, with further engagement with key delivery partners leading to a second consultation in mid-late 2014 on regulatory changes and guidance. So unfortunately despite the urgency of this issue by this time next year it looks unlikely that we’ll have seen any progress.

Let’s hope that a favourable judgement from the European Court of Justice on ClientEarth’s air pollution case might help to speed things up.

Read the Healthy Air Campaign’s response to this consultation here.

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