New government report reveals 75% of local authorities are failing to monitor air pollution

Ten years on from the introduction of the Local Authority Pollution Control regime, 75% of local authorities are failing to adequately inspect polluting processes, according to a new report published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The report, Local Authority Pollution Control Statistical Survey 2000-2001, names the best and the worst performing local authorities, which regulate air pollution from over 18,000 processes around the country. According to the report, only 25% of authorities are meeting or exceeding the mandatory two inspections per polluting process per year, and the average number of visits has fallen to only one and a half visits per year.

The top local administration, Hull & Goole Port Harbour Authority, carried out over 21 inspections per polluting process during 2000/01, with other high performing local authorities including Swansea Bay Port Harbour Authority, with nearly nine inspections per process, and Blaeneau Gwent, with over seven inspections per process.

At the other end of the scale, however, the named and shamed authorities include Alnwick, Hastings, Tyne Port Harbour Authority, Kensington & Chelsea, and Tandridge, all of which failed to inspect the polluting processes that they have authorised.

“The picture of air pollution control is getting worse,” said Environment Industries Commission (EIC) Director Merlin Hyman. “The failures in this regime damage the environment and the health of the local people, who often live in the most deprived areas where industrial processes are situated. DEFRA must ensure local air pollution control is properly enforced.”

“Poorly performing local authorities are in effect undermining companies that respect the local environment as their polluting competitors can gain commercially by not installing the necessary environmental protection,” said Hyman. “Companies in Leeds should not have lower standards than those in Oldham,” he added, commenting on the fact that Leeds carried out only 63 visits to their 141 processes, whilst in Oldam, 111 inspections were carried out at the authority’s 37 processes, an average of three visits per process.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher announced that he was pleased with the fact that there have been some improvements in local authority air pollution controls. “But I am disappointed that this latest set of statistics show that a significant proportion of local authorities are letting down those they represent by failing to inspect processes sufficiently,” he said. “We will be writing to all these authorities and I expect a rapid improvement in performance.”

“I am also dismayed that only 31% of local authorities have adopted cost accounting practices to demonstrate how they spend the income they receive from fees and charges paid by industry,” Meacher added. “This runs counter to the principles of transparency and accountability I would expect all authorities to subscribe to. I have asked officials to take this up with the Local Government Association.”

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