25 Mar 2021 Supporting Professional Development: Air Quality Impacts on Ecological Features
In recent years a number of high-profile legal cases have highlighted the importance of air quality when considering mechanisms whereby development can impact on ecological features. These cases include Wealden District Council v Secretary of State EWHC 351 (which considered air quality impacts on Ashdown Forest SAC and established the requirement to consider ‘in combination’ effects for all relevant plans and projects) and The Dutch cases C-293/17 and C-294/17 (which focussed on nitrogen emissions and concluded that Habitat Regulations Assessments required a precautionary approach to be adopted when considering situations where Critical Loads and Levels are exceeded). These key judgements have resulted in greater scrutiny of air quality effects and their significance on ecological receptors, which in turn has resulted in a requirement for better cross-disciplinary liaison and assessment to ensure a robust and defensible approach.
BSG Ecology is working with clients to ensure that there is a common understanding of the implications of these judgements, so that we can continue to support our clients effectively. This requirement and our commitment to staff training and development, led to a training session delivered to our Senior Management Group on the assessment of air quality impacts on ecological features. Steven Betts, Associate Director, coordinated the session that considered industry guidance published by the Institute of Air Quality Management and by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management. The session highlighted the importance of early collaboration between air quality and ecology technical specialists to ensure that all relevant ecological receptors and pollutants are considered in impact assessments. Particular attention was given to the approaches that need to be adopted by the different specialists, and how regular liaison is essential to ensure that impacts are correctly identified and robustly assessed.
The training prompted some interesting discussion about the assessment of air quality effects on different habitats and how to mitigate impacts. This helped to reinforce staff knowledge and understanding of the assessment of air quality impacts on ecological features, and to build on the expertise developed through a range of varied projects where air quality impacts on ecology have been a key consideration.