Which years count towards the full compliance needed for revocation?
The revocation of an AQMA should be considered following three consecutive years of compliance, 10% below the relevant objective at the point of exposure (i.e., following fall off with distance adjustment). Where there have been no exceedances for the past five years, local authorities must proceed with plans to revoke the AQMA. The LAQM Technical Guidance 2022 is clear in this respect:
“There should not be any declared AQMAs for which compliance with the relevant objective has been achieved for a consecutive five-year period.” (Point 3.57, page 50).
Unless a likely exceedance has been identified in the area, Defra does not appraise AQAPs for AQMAs that have been in compliance for five years. Local Authorities are instead advised to revoke the AQMA and develop a local Air Quality Strategy.
To avoid cycling between declaring, revoking and declaring again, local authorities should be confident that the years counted towards full compliance are representative of typical conditions and therefore, are in a position to assure local communities that achievement with objectives will be maintained after revocation as required through Environment Act 1995, as amended by Environment Act 2021.
It is not advisable to base compliance on a year that is not representative of long-term trends. Air quality monitoring data should be considered as part of the wider context and not in isolation.
For example, compliance that is first achieved in 2020 unlikely to be representative of long-term trends in pollutant concentrations due to the impact of COVID-19 and associated lock down measures. Similarly in 2021, pollutant concentrations continued to be impacted by the change in typical activity that resulted from COVID-19 restrictions.
Substantive evidence would therefore need to be provided to show that these consecutive years are representative of long-term trends.
Where 2020 and 2021 are a continuation of a downward trend and part of many consecutive years of compliance (e.g., where compliance has also been achieved in 2019, prior to COVID-19) the AQMA may be appropriate for revocation.
If you are unsure how to approach these years of data in plans for revocation, please contact LAQM Helpdesk who will liaise with Defra for specific advice as needed.