Air Quality Review and Assessment
The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 introduced a statutory obligation on councils to carry out a review and assessment of their local air quality known as local air quality management (LAQM). This involves measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change in the next few years. The aim of the review is to make sure that the national air quality objectives will be achieved throughout the UK by the relevant deadlines.
In Northern Ireland the air quality objectives contained in the strategy are incorporated into the Air Quality Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003. This provides the statutory basis for the system of LAQM and include the following pollutants: fine particulates (PM10 and PM2.5), oxides of nitrogen, ozone, sulphur dioxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, one - two butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead and ammonia. Where this assessment indicates that an air quality objective is unlikely to met in any part of its district the local authority must declare an air quality management area (AQMA) and prepare an Action Plan and further assessment of the level of exceedance and indicate how the objective is to be met.
The Review and Assessment Process requires us to produce every three years, an updating and screening assessment (USA). This involves an examination of traffic volumes, new sources of pollution and monitoring data and compare these to national objectives for specific pollutants. Where the USA indicates that any of these objectives will be exceeded then we are required to produce a second report called the detailed assessment. The detailed assessment uses monitoring and/or modelling data to provide an accurate assessment of whether the objective (pollutant) in question will be exceeded.
In addition to the USA and detailed assessment, we are also required to produce a progress report in years when the USA is not undertaken. The progress report details current conditions and examines any changes in the Borough that may affect air pollution levels.
If the detailed assessment shows that an area definitely exceeds an air quality objective the Council is required to declare an air quality management area (AQMA). It is obviously important to identify the source of the pollution within an AQMA and how much of an improvement in pollution levels are required so that we can develop an Action Plan to show how we are going to improve the air quality within an AQMA to meet the national objectives.
Review and Assessment Reports including Air Quality Management Areas and information on air quality monitoring within Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council can be obtained by accessing the Northern Ireland Air Quality website: www.airqualityni.co.uk.
Smoke Control Areas
The Clean Air (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 enables local Councils to establish 'Smoke Control Areas'. If you live within a Smoke Control Area it is illegal to burn unauthorised fuels such as household coal, slack, turf or wood. If you wish to light a fire you must:
Only use an authorised appliance in your property that has been exempted from the legislation. These appliances have been designed to burn unauthorised or inherently smoky fuels without emitting smoke. Such appliances are only exempt from the legislation when burning the specific fuels for which they have been designed and which are listed under the exemption.
Only use an authorised fuel that has passed tests to show they can burn in an open fireplace without producing smoke.
You can download the current list of exempt appliances and approved fuels and view further information about smoke control areas on the Defra website http://smokecontrol.defra.gov.uk.
The Council also has powers under the Clean Air (NI) Order 1981 and the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011 to deal with emission of dark smoke from industrial or trade premises and smoke nuisance to a neighbourhood arising from burning activities at any premises.
There are no laws prohibiting bonfires however under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (NI) 2011, a statutory nuisance includes “smoke emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. In practice, to be considered a nuisance, the problem would have to occur on a regular basis and interfere substantially with your well being, comfort or enjoyment of your property. Just because you can see a garden bonfire or smell smoke does not mean that this would necessarily constitute a nuisance. Some factors that will affect whether a bonfire is classed as a statutory nuisance are the size of the fire, the materials being burnt, the weather and the odour. If the Council is satisfied that statutory nuisance conditions exist it can take enforcement action to abate the nuisance and prohibit recurrence of the problem.
It is an offence under The Roads (NI) Order 1981 to allow smoke from a bonfire to affect visibility on a public highway and endanger traffic. This is dealt with by the police service.
Guidelines For Garden Bonfires
If you wish to have a garden bonfire you are advised to follow the guidance below:
Only burn dry garden material - wet material produces more smoke and steam
Never burn domestic rubbish, furniture, painted wood, tyres or plastics
Never add a fuel such as diesel, oil or petrol
Ensure having a bonfire will not affect neighbours (e.g. check they have windows closed and do not have any washing out to dry)
Never have bonfires on damp days or when there is little or no wind as smoke will linger in the air for long periods of time
Never have bonfires at weekends or on bank holidays when people are more likely to be enjoying their gardens - be considerate to your neighbours!
If your neighbours do complain rake off any unburnt material if safe to do so and smother the fire with soil or sand. Dousing with water can make the problem worse due to the amount of steam that is produced
Alternatives to Burning Waste
Household waste should not be burned. It should be placed in your wheelie bin or it can be taken to any of the Council’s local amenity sites free of charge. Large items, such as furniture, can be collected by the Council’s bulky waste service.
Many items of household waste can be recycled. Maximum use should be made of the Council’s doorstep collection service for designated recyclables. Alternatively, glass, plastics, metals, paper, cardboard and clothes can be taken to recycling banks located at a number of locations throughout the district, including the Council’s amenity sites.
A lot of waste can be converted to garden compost in a composting bin to produce a soil conditioner and save money on commercial products.