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)
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.

Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP)

Both South Cambridgeshire District Council and Huntingdonshire District Council have declared Air Quality Management Areas along the A14, whilst Cambridge City Council has an AQMA in the City Centre. As a result of increasing levels of traffic, the interconnected nature of the road network and spatial distribution of housing, recreation and employment in the region, officers from the three Councils decided to produce a joint Air Quality Action Plan.

Guidance from Defra specifies that an Air Quality Action Plan must include the following:

  • Quantification of the source contributions responsible for the exceedance of the relevant objective, allowing AQAP measures to be effectively targeted
  • Evidence that all available options have been considered on the grounds of cost-effectiveness and feasibility
  • Quantification of impacts of proposed measures including, where feasible, expected emission and concentration reductions (either locally obtained and/or via national monitoring/modelling statistics). It is important that the local authority shows how it intends to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the plan
  • Clear timescales, including milestones and expected outcomes, which the authority and other delivery partners propose to implement the measures within the AQAP
  • Defined roles and responsibilities that detail how the local authority and other delivery partners, including transport, planning and health departments, will take ownership of the problem and in what capacity they will work together to implement the AQAP

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

Air Quality Strategy

In June 2008, we adopted a Local Air Quality Strategy [PDF, 3.5MB]. The Local Air Quality Strategy (LAQS) goes beyond the statutory duties of the NAQS, but shows that we are able, keen and capable of making a contribution to improving air quality.

The LAQS has been created to:

  • Bring together all internal and external bodies who are either affected by or have an impact on local air quality
  • Ensure a consistent approach in dealing with air quality internally and externally
  • To create a platform upon which improvements both in Council performance and air quality can be built

The development of a new Air Quality Strategy is underway.

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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