The plan – drawn up by Department of Transport, Industries and the Regions (DETR), Welsh Office, The Scottish Office, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Local Government Association (LGA), National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection, Association of Port Health Authorities and Scottish Environment Protection Agency – responds to some 30 recommendations of an independent audit of the Local Air Pollution Control (LAPC) carried out by Cardinal Environment Ltd earlier this year.

DETR commissioned the audit in response to technology suppliers’ complaints that lax or inconsistent enforcement of the LAPC regime was damaging business.

Environmental Industries Commission (EIC), the technology supplier’s association, took up the issue with a campaign for greater transparency and consistency in local air pollution regulation.

Adrian Wilkes, EIC director, told IEM: “We’re very pleased to see movement on this front.

“It’s worth repeating that when we launched our report in November 1997, highlighting the problems of LAPC enforcement and its impact on our members, it was widely disparaged. The ‘Cardinal Report’ backed up our case and now the Government’s response fully vindicates our original concerns.”

To improve the consistency of local authority air pollution inspection, the DETR has promised to re-issue 1995 guidance and provide new framework guidance on inspection procedures. This will be drawn up by a working party of SEPA, DETR and WO representatives.

Management guide

In the meantime, CIEH, LGA and SEPA are due to publish a management guide on LAPC to secure a more consistent approach to issues such as upgrading programmes, issuing of variation notices and LAPC cost accounting. The LGA and CIEH have also agreed to discuss how to rejuvenate the Link Authority Scheme to improve exchange of information between authorities.

On enforcement, the LGA is actively encouraging local authorities to sign up to the new Enforcement Concordat agreed with the Cabinet Office in March 1998. LGA will also be issuing a circular to all local authorities reminding them of the need to produce and implement clear policies relating all their enforcement functions.

Central government monitoring will also be more rigorous. As part of the annual statistical return, DETR/WO will require more detailed information about local authority inspections and enforcement policy including information on four-yearly reviews, the length of inspection visits, whether the local authority has an LAPC-specific or a general enforcement policy, and whether it has formally signed up the Concordat.

In order to secure overdue compliance by the metal and plastic coating processes (due 1 April 1998), LGA and CIEH wrote to authorities in September telling them upgrade deadlines must be respected and enforcement action may be used, if necessary, to secure compliance. A short-term helpline has been set up to advise local authorities on technical issues relating to this sector.

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