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Cambridge City Council

Air quality guidance for developers

Every new development will have an impact on air quality. Usually, but not always, this will be caused by increasing emissions from buildings and traffic.

Cambridge has an air quality problem that is mostly caused by emissions from traffic. Continuing development in and around the city will potentially make the problem worse. We declared an Air Quality Management Area [PDF, 3.5MB] in the city centre in 2004.

Dealing with poor air quality is a priority issue for the government and us, because it has a direct impact on people’s health. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states that development should, wherever possible, help to improve local environmental conditions.

Policy 36 of the Local Plan (Air Quality, Odour and Dust) states that “development will be allowed where it will not interfere with the Air Quality Action Plan”. Policy 82 (Parking) provides outline on levels of car and cycle parking, provision of car clubs and electric-vehicle charging points, and car-free developments.

Our Air Quality Action Plan sets out our plans to improve air quality in Cambridge and ensure that it remains good in the future. It contains measures to improve air quality both in the short and longer term. These measures are consistent with the NPPF and the Cambridge Local Plan.

Certain measures in the plan will help improve air quality through planning requirements. These include:

  • Electric vehicle charging point provision in all new developments, both residential and commercial, where parking is provided
  • Provision of clar clubs, where appropriate
  • Emission limits for all combustion emissions to air associated with a development

All new developments within the Cambridge City Council boundary must deliver these measures to the standards outlined in the action plan. 

The action plan was approved by our Environment Scrutiny Committee and by Defra in March 2018.

Burning solid fuel

There are 3 smoke control areas in Cambridge. In these areas you can only burn smokeless fuel unless you have a special appliance. We encourage you to adopt the same principles elsewhere in the city.

Read our smoke pollution page to find out more about smoke control areas.

We do not encourage the use of biomass for centralised boiler or combined heat and power systems. These systems can have a negative impact on local air quality.

Development principles for air quality

You should consider the air quality impact of any proposed development as early as possible in the design process, so that mitigation can be designed in. You should consider all emissions to air and ensure that appropriate measures are integrated into the development in line with the requirements set out in the Air Quality Action Plan.

Chapter 3.6 of our Sustainable Design and Construction Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (2020) explains how air quality and air pollution issues will be dealt with through the planning process. It provides detailed instructions to help you prepare all necessary documentation before submitting a formal application, including whether or not an air quality assessment is required.

All developments – with the exception of household applications – require you to submit an Air Quality Statement with the application. This provides details on air quality levels, emissions to air and how the development has been designed to minimise its impact on air quality including details on the action plan measures required. This considers both the construction and operational phase.

All major developments should complete a sustainability checklist – see appendix 1 of the SPD. A detailed air quality assessment including dispersion modelling might be required if any of the criteria listed under the air pollution section are met.

Electric vehicle charging points

Electric vehicle charging points, both active and passive provision, are required in all new developments where car parking is provided.

The number of active charging points and the charge rates (slow, rapid and fast) will be dependent on the requirements of the future site users.

It is essential that you consider the following as early as possible in the design of the site:

  • Number of charging points
  • Intentions for active and passive provision
  • Location and layout, including placement of infrastructure
  • Charge rates of active charging points (slow, rapid or fast)
  • Availability of power supply

Read our electric vehicle charging point infrastructure advice note [PDF, 0.3MB] for more information on things to consider when designing and delivering charging points.