Air quality management areas in Cheltenham

An air quality management area (AQMA) is effectively an air quality action zone where improvements in air quality must be implemented. The boundary of the AQMA includes the properties affected by the elevated pollution levels. Once an AQMA has been declared, monitoring continues and we must prepare an air quality action plan.

In December 2008, an AQMA was declared in Cheltenham at the lower end of Bath Road and High Street. This was because nitrogen dioxide levels had exceeded national air quality limits.

A new AQMA was declared in 2011 to cover the whole of Cheltenham Borough as further monitoring identified several other locations in Cheltenham where nitrogen dioxide limits are being exceeded.  This resulted in a new Air Quality Action Plan being developed to address the levels of NO2 across the town.

In 2020 the council revised the AQMA to cover a limited area of properties extending from the junction of Gloucester Road, Tewkesbury Road and High Street, through Poole Way and along Swindon Road to the junction of St George’s Street.  This has been done to reflect a general reduction in pollution levels to below legal limits across much of the town the town. Note that he changes to the AQMA area do not mean that monitoring of pollution levels has stopped in the rest of the town – in fact it has increased.

Air quality action plan

When an AQMA has been declared by a local authority, the authority must then commence the preparation of an air quality action plan. An action plan is a detailed document which must state how the authority intends to reduce the pollution levels that have been exceeded, in order to meet the national air quality standards.  The new AQAP will also go above minimum requirements and include steps to reduce pollution in other areas which have the potential to breach legal limits in coming years.

The new air quality action plan is being developed by consultants to the council who have now commenced work on quantifying the contribution of different sources to the pollution level in the AQMA and areas of concern.

The action plan will be further developed in the first half of 2020. This will include setting up a 'steering group' of people to identify measures that could be implemented to bring down pollution levels. Members of the group will usually include representatives from key departments within the council, such as environmental health and planning, together with officers from Gloucestershire County Council transport department and local councillors. Invitations for contributions to this steering group will be circulated in early 2020.

The action plan is likely to be a detailed technical document which sets out existing and proposed actions to improve air quality. These action points may include the implementation of measures such as improved transport planning, pollution control technology and healthy living initiatives.