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Community engagement in local authority air quality plans and actions

Community engagement in local authority air quality plans and actions

Why this research is a priority

Exposure to air pollution has a detrimental effect on health. Long-term effects include heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory disease and in the short-term it can exacerbate conditions such as asthma. There is also evidence that people living in disadvantaged areas are disproportionately affected.

Each local authority has to review their air quality and report to the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra). If they identify a location where pollution levels exceed set thresholds, they must declare an Air Quality Management Area and develop an action plan. When reporting on these reviews and developing plans there has to be consultation, and “bodies representing local business interests and other organisations as appropriate” are specified consultees. Although residents are not specifically identified as statutory consultees, a Defra public health briefing states that “engagement with various stakeholders, including other members within the local authority, those in the local health sector and the wider community is foremost in ensuring air quality issues are tackled appropriately.”

About the project

The aims are to:

(i) investigate the ways in which communities are engaged with decision-making and implementation of air quality plans/actions

(ii) better understand the contribution that community engagement (CE) can make to reducing health harms of air pollution

(iii) identify ways in which the potential for CE can be strengthened in the future.

Longer term, this work will inform the development of demonstration sites where models of CE in air quality plans and actions will be developed, embedded and evaluated.

During year 1 and 2 the following activities have been undertaken:

Group conversations with members of the public were carried out in three localities in North West England to explore public perceptions of air quality, the extent this is a priority for local communities, and the ways that local communities have been involved in local air quality plans and consultations.

We reviewed local authority action plans, annual air quality status reports and other documents available on-line. The findings indicate there is a lot of advice provided to the public, a few consultation exercises around specific plans and a relatively small number of other CE activities. However, there are indications that more engagement activity is being planned in some localities.

With the ARC NWC Impact team at UCLAN [] we have completed a scoping review (due for publication in spring 2021) providing further insight about the approaches that have been previously used in engaging communities in air quality plans and actions internationally. A Review Working Group

was established to support the review, involving Public Advisers and colleagues from local authorities and a social enterprise.

Key outputs

Summary of group conversations: Air Pollution (February 2020)

Community engagement in air quality actions: a review of local authority plans (Dec 2020)

Community engagement in air quality actions: towards the development of local demonstration sites (Nov 2020)

Community Involvement in Air Quality Plans and Actions (Nov 2020)

Community involvement in local air quality plans and actions/update October 2020


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