DEFRA, the UK government department responsible for safeguarding our natural environment,  has launched a consultation on its draft long-term Clean Air Strategy outlining the steps it plans to take to address emissions from a range of sources. The strategy outlines ambitions to make the UK’s air healthier to breathe, to protect nature and boost the economy. This includes proposals to tackle air pollution from domestic solid fuels, agriculture, non-road mobile machinery, aviation and shipping. The consultation will inform the final Clean Air Strategy and detailed National Air Pollution Control Programme which is to be published in March 2019.

The draft strategy contains a series of proposed actions; some are already in the public domain along with new policy proposals. The document sets out the comprehensive action that is required from across all parts of government and society to meet clean air targets. DEFRA has pledged new legislation to create a stronger and more coherent framework for action to tackle air pollution. This will be underpinned by new powers to control major sources of air pollution, in line with the risk posed to public health and the environment, alongside local powers to act in areas that are identified as high risk.

The key pledges are:

  • New legislation will enable the Transport Secretary to require manufacturers to recall vehicles and machinery for any failures in emissions control system and make tampering with an emissions control system a legal offence.
  • A statutory framework for Clean Air Zones to create a single approach covering all sources of air pollution
  • Legislation to restrict the sale of the most polluting fuels, by introducing a 2% sulphur limit for the sale of all solid domestic fuels and ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022
  • Increased transparency by bringing local and national monitoring data together into a single accessible portal for information on air quality monitoring and modelling
  • Publication of appraisal tools and accompanying guidance to enable the health impacts of air pollution to be considered in every relevant policy decision made
  • Plans to phase out diesel-only trains by 2040
  • A national code of good agricultural practice aimed at controlling ammonia emissions

Air pollution is estimated to cost the UK £20bn a year in NHS costs and worker sickness. The strategy proposes savings of £1bn annually which opens discussion on whether the strategy goes far enough to address the scale of the problem. Whilst the strategy is aimed at reducing pollution from a wide range of sources, general pollution from road traffic is noticeably omitted. Road vehicles are a primary source of nitrogen dioxide pollution particularly in cities. The failure to include measures to tackle this issue this is disappointing.

DEFRA is seeking views on the proposed actions to reduce air pollution and any other suggestions to achieve cleaner and healthier air. The consultation is open until 14th August 2018 and we are collating views on the feasibility of achieving the proposed standards. To have your say, please email the compliance team at or alternatively complete the contact form. To discuss this further please call Melanie Kendall-Reid on 01252 87 87 22.

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