Chair’s Column: March 2013

Posted on February 17th, 2013

roger_barrowcliffe2013 promises to be an interesting year for air quality and our Institute, with a host of new developments in our subject to look forward to. One obvious change for me is that I succeed Bernard Fisher as your Chairman. The very first thing I would like to do in communicating with you is thank and commend Bernard for his time at the helm of IAQM. His energy and enthusiasm has taken us forward considerably and he has left us in a much better place than when he took on the role seven years ago. In those early years, we were a fledgling organisation with an uncertain role in the world. Now, we are a thriving institute providing over 300 members with an enhanced professional status and a growing reputation as the natural home of air quality professionals.

The core aim of IAQM must always be to maintain and improve professional standards, thereby representing the interests of its members. For this reason, we have resolved to increase our rigour in assessing applications for membership, part of which sees an increase in the number of years of experience required to become a full Member. We are not an exclusive club that seeks to restrict our membership numbers, but we are determined that membership is seen to be a worthy achievement and recognised as such by other professions. In that spirit, can I also encourage you to maintain and record your professional development, which is a crucial part of your membership.

One way that we are looking to help members in this regard is to hold more discussion meetings and conferences. Last December, the annual DMUG meeting was again a great success with over 90 people attending at an excellent venue in London, found for us by the IES. This year, we will once again be running the DMUG meeting, but we also have plans to host a one day conference in September on the subject of land use planning and its role in shaping air quality, as well as a discussion meeting for members on transport emissions and modelling in June. We are proposing to hold the latter meeting in York, following our committee meeting. We hope that by doing so we can encourage those northern members to attend who might normally find it logistically difficult to travel to London. If this is successful, we will seek to hold other meetings in other parts of the country. We are a national institute and we would like to give all members the opportunity to participate fully in our activities.

One aspect of our role that is especially encouraging for me is the formulation and dissemination of guidance on key topics. This began with our contribution to the development of significance criteria for use in environmental assessment for planning applications. This became an integral part of the revised EPUK document on planning advice. We have followed this with two documents on construction dust, a difficult and sometimes awkward part of assessment work. Currently, we have just begun the process of developing a similar document on odour. These are significant and important contributions, which greatly assist members and also increase our wider status. It should also be recognised that they are the result of members contributing their time for free, which is not easy to do in amongst the pressures of our work. I would also like to remind ourselves that the guidance documents we produce will not become ‘fossilised’. After some time, it is inevitable, and possibly desirable, that they are revised in the light of experience. Comment and feedback is always welcome.

This brings me to my final item. Amongst other things, this year sees the European Commission and our national government taking stock of where we are on policies and their implementation. Right now, the EC is consulting on its Thematic Strategy for air quality. (It has declared 2013 as the ‘Year of Air’, which we should be capitalising on – it might be a long time before we sees another such declaration.) As an institute, it is one of our key roles to respond on behalf of UK air quality professionals and if you have a point of view, do please communicate this to me or a member of the Committee.

That’s it from me for now. I will contribute here as frequently as I can and do feel free to contact me about IAQM matters if you have an opinion. I hope you like the new look web site too. (Many thanks for the efforts of IES staff in making this happen.) We’ll try and keep it fresh and it will always be a useful repository for all our IAQM outputs for you to use as a resource.