Ask the Expert: Air Quality – The Importance of Consideration From the Outset of Development Plans

Ask the Expert: Air Quality – The Importance of Consideration From the Outset of Development Plans

Conal Kearney, director of air quality at Enzygo, discusses the importance of considering air quality issues from the outset of development plans.

Enzygo Ltd are an independent, multi-disciplinary environmental consultancy with a proven track record of delivering creative, integrated and cost-effective solutions that maximise the potential of development sites. We use a collaborative approach to devise solutions that are respectful of technical and budgetary constraints, comply with industry guidance, whilst also fulfilling planning and commercial aspirations.

We have substantial experience in the delivery of all types of developments, including major infrastructure projects, residential housing schemes and renewable energy programs, across a broad range of environmental disciplines, including Planning, Air Quality, Hydrology and Drainage, Permitting and Regulation, Landscape, Ecology, Transport, Geo-Environmental and Hydrogeology, Noise and Vibration, and Arboriculture.

The air quality team consider the impacts of introducing site users in areas of existing poor air quality and odours and the impacts the additional emissions that new developments can bring to the surrounding area, both to human health and ecologically important sites.

Looking back to the end of the millennium, when I first began a career in air quality, much has changed. Not only our understanding of air quality, the chemical reactions involved and how it impacts on our health – only recently did a coroner’s report make the first ruling of air pollution as a direct cause of death – but also how development projects are designed to mitigate these impacts.

Back then, there was a feeling that air quality may not be an issue by today (and I would be considering a career change!), however air quality has not decreased as quickly as first expected (particularly at roadside locations) and more detailed health studies are indicating that pollutant levels that may have been considered acceptable back then are likely causing poor health to those exposed for longer periods.

Developers are now expected to do much more in terms of mitigating the impacts of additional emissions, protecting people using the land or ensuring that ecosystems would not be damaged. Driving these changes are tighter planning policies and supplementary planning documents. This is backed up by an evolving low emission technology market. For example, the previous decade’s push for Combined Heat and Power Plants in London is being replaced by a preference for ground source heat pumps.

As a result, it is more important than ever for those leading development projects to consider air quality implications from the outset to ensure that they are meeting required standards and to consider what mitigation may be likely and consider its feasibility in the design.

I would advise developers to involve an experienced air quality professional at the earliest opportunity to discuss any proposals. Enzygo can offer initial advice on local requirements, likely mitigation requirements and potential impacts and their implications from the development. For example, will the presence of balconies encourage ingress of pollutants to indoor areas, or have the inclusion of electric vehicles charging points been considered?

We then advise that once the design is fixed that all required information on likely emissions is provided at the earliest. We will then be able to use our expertise to model and assess the detailed impacts and advise on the options available to the developer.

Taking these steps will hopefully reduce any nasty surprises as the projects near completion!

Enzygo then use their experience to support the development and the report to get the best solution for the project with the relevant authority.

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