The Big Smoke

Readers will be aware of the Government’s intention to place a ban on new diesel and petrol cars from 2040. Against that background an inspector’s decision to reject a proposal for a six storey block to accommodate 21 flats on a site within an air quality management area in north London (DCS Number 200-006-656) is of interest.

The site experienced high levels of exposure to nitrogen dioxide due largely to its location in the middle of a busy traffic island, the inspector noted. It was also exposed to exceedances of the annual mean Air Quality Objective for nitrogen dioxide to a height of approximately 7.5 metres, broadly translating to the equivalent of the ground, first and second floor levels of the proposed building.

The proposal sought to respond to this in two ways, the inspector recorded. Firstly, the building would incorporate an air management and handling system that would draw cleaner air from roof level and circulate it around the building as part of its heating and cooling air handling function. Secondly, whilst the flats would have access to opening windows and to outside space on balconies, the latter would be in the form of winter gardens; essentially enclosed balconies beyond the internal living areas, with sliding windows opening to the outside.

The inspector shared the council’s concern that a two-pronged approach of this nature might be compromised and would fail to strike an appropriate balance between access to sources of clean fresh air and ensuring a healthy supply of clean air within the building. Just as a fully sealed building without the ability to open doors or windows to draw in fresh, or at least outside, air would not provide a particularly pleasant living environment, he opined, so too would a scheme where the opening of windows came with an advisory to the occupier of the potential harm of the elevated nitrogen dioxide levels outside the building.  

It had not been demonstrated, the inspector concluded, that the proposal would provide or maintain an appropriate balance between internal air quality and satisfactory living conditions.

In twenty-odd years’ time this will all be different. Hopefully.

The following DCP section is relevant: 7.1355

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