Conflict and consensus in spatial and temporal designations of air quality management areas (AQMAS) to secure air quality objectives in Great Britain
The first United Kingdom Air Quality Strategy was published in 1997. This required
local government to undertake a scientific assessment of air quality in their areas and
make future air quality predictions. Where such predictions identified potential
problems, with regard to the achievement of specific national air quality objectives,
local government has been required to declare air quality management areas
(AQMAs), as a statutory duty.
Whilst a scientific decision-making process has determined where such AQMAs are
required, consultation on the scientific findings and a political decision-making process
is required before such AQMAs are officially declared. As a result of this, there is
conflict at all levels of decision-making. First, where to draw AQMA boundaries, given
the scientific information with which to base this decision upon. Second, politicians
have exercised, to varying degrees, their aspirations, wishes and opinions on the
An examination of the various scientific methods of determining the extent of AQMAs
and their boundaries and the influence of the political decision-making process
following the scientific determination of AQMAs has identified considerable variation.
Variation has been found in the scientific decision-making process and to a lesser
extent in the local political decision-making processes with respect to declaring
AQMAs. AQMAs were found to be determined and modified by science rather than by
political decision-making processes. The need for a more consistent process of
decision-making within local government is evaluated. How this may best be achieved
in future rounds of local air quality management is critically considered.