Local air quality management

Local air quality is legislated for under Part 4 of the Environment Act 1995, which introduces Local Air Quality Management (LAQM), and subsequent regulation. LAQM is the statutory process by which local authorities monitor, assess and take action to improve local air quality, as well as report annually through an Annual Status Report (ASR). Where a local authority identifies areas of non-compliance with the air quality objectives set out below, and there is relevant public exposure, there is a statutory need to declare the geographic extent of non-compliance as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Following this, an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) must be prepared, setting out the measures the local authority intends to put in place in pursuit of the objectives.

The objectives to be met by local authorities are detailed in the table below:

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Pollutant Concentration Measured as Date to be achieved by
Nitrogen dioxide 200 µg/m3 not to be
exceeded more than
18 times a year
40 µg/m3
1-hour mean


Annual mean
31 December 2005
Particulate Matter (PM10)
(gravimetric)
50 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
35 times a year
40 µg/m3
24-hour mean


Annual mean
31 December 2004
Sulphur dioxide 350 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
24 times a year
125 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
3 times a year
266 µg/m3, not to be
exceeded more than
35 times a year
1-hour mean


24-hour mean


15-minute mean
31 December 2004
Benzene 16.25 µg/m3
5.00 µg/m3
Annual mean
Annual mean
31 December 2003
31 December 2010
1,3-Butadiene 2.25 µg/m3 Annual mean 31 December 2003
Carbon monoxide 10.0 mg/m3 8-hour mean 31 December 2003
Lead 0.5 µg/m3
0.25 µg/m3
Annual mean
Annual mean
31 December 2004
31 December 2008

Real time air pollution monitoring in South Cambridgeshire district

Details of our three continuous monitoring sites, including maps and live data from these sites can be viewed at the South Cambridgeshire air quality and monitoring sites details dashboard.

Air Quality Annual Status Reports (ASRs)

One of the requirements for local authorities as part of the LAQM process is to produce an Annual Status Report (ASR) each year, containing an overview of air quality in the district during the previous year. South Cambridgeshire District Council has monitored and reported on local air quality annually since 1998. The most recent reports are available below. The 2021 report was recently approved by Defra.

Should you require previous reports, please send a request to air.quality@scambs.gov.uk

Air Quality Management Area (AQMA)

In 2008, as a result of exceedances of the national objectives for annual mean nitrogen dioxide and daily mean particulate matter (PM10), an area of the A14 between Milton and Bar Hill was designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). An Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) was created which identifies practical, feasible and cost-effective measures that can be implemented to improve the air quality.

A map showing the Air Quality Management Area within South Cambridge

Reproduced from the 2007 Ordnance Survey mapping with the permission of the controller of Her Majesty's stationary office (c) Crown Copyright. Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown Copyright and may lead to prosecution or civil proceedings.

In early 2022 the AQMA was formally revoked with support from Defra following sustained compliance with the objectives over the previous 8 years, with no exceedances of the objectives since 2013. More detail about this revocation is available in the latest Annual Status Report (ASR).

Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP)

Air Quality Action Plans (AQAPs) are required where an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared and are designed to outline the measures required to meet the relevant objectives. Following the revocation of the AQMA in early 2022 an Air Quality Action Plan is no longer required for South Cambridgeshire.

Air Quality Strategy (AQS) and Low Emission Strategy (LES)

Air Quality Strategy

In addition to the formal obligations for Local Air Quality Management (LAQM), local authorities are encouraged to implement a local air quality strategy. Following the revocation of the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) after sustained compliance with the Air Quality Objectives an updated Air Quality Strategy [PDF, 0.6MB] has been adopted by the Council. This outlines our approach to monitoring, maintaining and where necessary improving the local air quality across the district going forward. The strategy focuses on ensuring:

1. air quality is monitored and understood district wide and appropriate measures are introduced to meet air quality objectives,
2. policies are in place to minimise impacts from future developments and
3. public engagement is aimed at increasing local knowledge and supporting better choices in reducing daily impact on air quality.

Low Emission Strategy and air quality in planning

Air quality is an important consideration in planning applications for major developments. As outlined in the 2018 South Cambridgeshire Local Plan, a Low Emission Strategy (LES) will need to be submitted alongside planning applications for major developments requiring a Transport Assessment and Travel Plan and developments with significant transport implications.

Low Emission Strategies provide a package of measures to help mitigate the transport impacts of development on local air quality and on climate change. They complement other design and mitigation options, such as travel planning and the provision of public transport infrastructure. Strategies are often secured through a combination of planning conditions and planning obligations. They may incorporate policy measures and / or require financial investments in and contributions to the delivery of low emission transport projects and plans, including strategic monitoring and assessment activities.

Full details of when a Low Emission Strategy will be required and the Council’s preferred sustainable transport measures to be included within any LES can be found in the Greater Cambridge Sustainable Design and Construction Supplementary Planning Document, in the section Air Quality – South Cambridgeshire.

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