Thursday, 13 November 2014

Developers face changes in air quality policy

Alaric Lester - Principal Consultant and Enan Keogh - Senior Consultant

The Mayor of London has been busy on air quality this year, not least because of the start of infraction proceedings by the European CommissionAlso aside from TfL’s consultation on proposals for a London Ultra-Low Emission Zone and Boris’s making an appearance at the Environmental Audit Committee in September, the Mayor has published two supplementary planning guidance (SPG) documents that may have substantial implications for developers.

Sustainable Design and Construction

The Sustainable Design and Construction SPG, published in April, includes guidance that formalises the requirement for developments with more than ten dwellings to be air-quality-neutral. For some years there has been a concern that, while smaller developments do not themselves lead to significant air quality effects, incremental additions to the air pollution load serve to delay wider improvements in air quality. There are now emissions benchmarks in the SPG that must be met, covering fixed plant (boilers and CHP) and road traffic associated with the development.

The air-quality-neutral assessments themselves are straightforward and do not add much cost to an air quality assessment or environmental statement chapter. Our experience so far suggests that mitigation of emissions that do not meet air-quality-neutral benchmarks will prove more problematic. Even with ultra-low-NOx boilers or tight controls on private car use, developments may still find themselves exceeding benchmarks. In one recent case, even though transport emissions just exceeded the benchmark and were based on a transport assessment that combined a number of worst-case assumptions, the Local Planning Authority (LPA) still wanted additional mitigation. We anticipate additional effort in negotiating appropriate planning conditions that will be acceptable to the LPA and the developer.

Dust and Emissions

Also published in 2014 was an SPG on the Control of Dust and Emissions During Construction and Demolition. This document builds on the GLA/ London Councils 2006 best practice guidance, The control of dust and emissions from construction and demolition and BRE’s Control of dust from construction and demolition activities. It also draws heavily on the Institute of Air Quality Management’s 2014 Guidance on the Assessment of Dust from Demolition and Construction. The SPG will influence construction practices in London.

Of immediate concern for developers in London, the GLA is seeking to control emissions from non-road mobile machinery. Major developments using non-road mobile plant machinery will have to meet emissions standards as defined in EU Directive 97/68/EC.

From 1st September 2015, in Greater London non-road mobile plant within specified power outputs will be required to meet Stage IIIA of the Directive as a minimum, and Stage IIIB within the Central Activity Zone or Canary Wharf. This means that most contractors’ plant will need replacing or to be retrofitted with emissions abatement equipment which means higher costs.

There is, at least, some concession for smaller operators; in outer London, emission standards will only apply to major developments. These emissions standards will apply to all construction projects, regardless of whether they started in advance of this date. The GLA recommends that developers begin immediately to put processes in place to ensure that their supply chain can meet the standards. It is acknowledged that it may be currently cost-prohibitive for some plant to meet the standards and the GLA will publish a list of plant that will, for a time, be exempt from the policy.

From the 1st September 2020, the emissions standards will apply to all construction sites in London, as well as being more stringent than the 2015 requirements. Developments in Greater London will need to achieve Stage IIIB standards, while those in the Central Activity Zone and Canary Wharf will be required to meet Stage IV as a minimum.

In addition, the SPG highlights the introduction of an ultra-low emissions zone in Central London in 2020. This will require all vehicles to be either zero or ultra-low emission and will affect any construction vehicles accessing sites.


With adequate preparation, these SPGs will be perfectly manageable for developers and their contractors. They will though mean some additional cost and effort.  Leading companies in the sectors affected will plan ahead and also take the opportunity to promote and espouse their developments’ green credentials.

For more information on Temple's Air Quality services, please contact Alaric Lester at

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