Air Quality Action plan – significant gap identified


RSUA has responded to Belfast City Council’s proposal for a new 5-year Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) which aims to improve air quality in four key areas of Belfast. 

The AQAP will draw upon various forms of air quality and transport planning initiatives to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, and will also identify, develop and implement mitigation measures to address fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution across the city where necessary.  

The RSUA response agreed with the aims of the action plan, but identified a gap in the actions proposed in the form of domestic solid fuel burning, which contributes more than previously thought to PM2.5 levels and which has not been considered in the plan. In 2017, residential, commercial, and public sector combustion accounted for 52% of overall PM2.5 emissions, and this sector was dominated (82%) by emissions from residential combustion.  

RSUA recommended that in light of this, low pollution low carbon local (district) heating networks should be required in new developments including apartment blocks and multi-tenant offices and retail developments. 

Other comments on the plan included a suggestion to improve public transport options by creating a ring system of transport around the city rather than relying on the current radial network, and a recommendation that planning policy should be updated to prevent further suburban sprawl and generate sufficient density within the existing footprint to make public transport a viable option. 

Thanks are due to Donal McRandal and John Lavery (RSUA Climate Committee) for drafting the response, which can be viewed in full here.