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Chair’s Column: September 2013

roger_barrowcliffeWe are now more than three quarters of the way through the EU’s ‘year of air’. So far, it has proved to be quite eventful, although not in the way I imagined in January. Much has happened, with the courts and Government being prominent in a series of events that have occupied our minds. The most significant event has arguably been Defra’s proposals for amending the LAQM regime, which (you will all be aware) have aroused considerable antagonism from the air quality community. The IAQM has submitted a formal response and I hope you will all be in broad agreement with our stated views. As part of a separate dialogue with Government, Claire Holman, Adam Donnan and I recently met with Defra and the topic of LAQM inevitably arose. It seems to me that the civil servants will have difficulty in maintaining their support and enthusiasm for Option 3, given the weight of opinion to the contrary. What will emerge eventually, however, is difficult to predict, but we need to be in a position to influence the outcome. A large part of our remit must be to place ourselves in the forefront of Defra officers’ minds when they seek to develop policy and guidance. Our comments must, therefore, be constructive and our aim is to build a position as the respected voice of the air quality community. Very recently, DCLG has set out ‘beta’ guidance on planning and air quality on its web site. This is also very important for us and we need to make comment on this too. Very fortuitously, this coincides with our planning conference, Planning for Better Air Quality, on 25th September. Peter Ellis of DCLG has agreed to take questions on this topic at the conference and we should take the opportunity to express points of view. The conference line up contains other important contributions, not least Elliot Treharne’s description of the GLA’s new planning policies for air quality, including the ‘emissions neutral’ concept. The conference is also coincident with the joint EPUK/IAQM initiative on revising our guidance on development control. These are all excellent reasons for supporting the event and I hope as many of you as possible will be able to attend. As a consequence of hosting the conference, and the other activities we are engaged in, we have decided not to hold a committee meeting September. Instead, we will meet before the AGM in November.
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