The IAQM issues Position Statements on: external matters that could affect the way in which Members carry out their professional tasks; or air quality topics and issues where the IAQM believes its collective specialist knowledge gives it a unique perspective from which to give a professional opinion.
In response to recent interest in the topic, the IAQM has produced a new position statement, entitled Use of a Criterion for the Determination of an Insignificant Effect of Air Quality Impacts on Sensitive Habitats.
One of the most contentious aspects of assessing air quality impacts of a development can be the potential effect on sites of nature conservation interest, especially where such sites are designated as Natura 2000 sites. That is, they are protected by the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC and subsequent amendments1). These sites are Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), as well as sites designated under the Ramsar Convention (or Convention on Wetlands). In circumstances where there is a potential effect on these sites, an assessment is required under the Habitats Regulations (2010) – an HRA2. Strictly speaking, such an assessment is undertaken by the ‘competent authority’, but in practice the relevant information is provided by a developer.
Additionally, there can be a requirement to assess the impacts on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). These sites are not protected by the Habitats Directive, but are often a focus of concern and similar principles apply.
Ultimately, a conclusion on whether air quality impacts are likely to be the cause of an adverse effect on the integrity of a designated site is best made by a qualified ecologist and guidance on this topic is awaited from the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. There is, however, sufficient knowledge and understanding of the topic to be able to define circumstances where there is definitely an insignificant effect, in cases where the impact is too small. This statement is intended to provide clarity on this aspect.