Environmental Health and Licensing

Environmental Health and Licensing

Introduction

The Environmental Health and Licensing team within Wokingham Borough is provided through a shared service with West Berkshire Council.  This collaborative department allows for an improved knowledge base and to share good practice and resources.  We are better placed to protect and improve public and workplace health and well being using a combination of formal enforcement processes available through statute and non statutory methods to encourage compliance and behaviour change


Environmental Quality Team

Service Aims and Objectives

West Berkshire and Wokingham Joint Service will make effective arrangements to protect the public and where appropriate enforce primary legislation to achieve this. This includes all associated regulations and codes of practice with the aim of ensuring that, within its area:


  • Individuals and communities responsible for Private Water Supplies are meeting acceptable standards 
  • Commercial activities do not cause statutory nuisances to neighbouring properties
  • We monitor air quality and liaise with internal stakeholders and the wider community
  • We ensure land is re mediated to a level which is appropriate for its use

 

Air Quality


National Legislation - Air quality is a devolved matter, though the UK government leads on international and European legislation. Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own air quality policy and legislation Protecting and enhancing our urban and natural environment to improve public health and wellbeing (DEFRA) (2013)).

National policy review - current levels of fine particulate air pollution in the UK have recently been estimated to result in social costs of £8-17 billion per annum and to reduce average life expectancy by 6 months; the UK are not achieving all of their legally binding targets for air quality arising from EU legislation with the main challenges in urban areas where traffic pollution is the dominant local source (DEFRA Atmosphere and Local Environment (ALE) Programme Evidence Plan (DEFRA) (2013))

Officers can use advice and best practice guidance from DEFRA through the LAQM website.


Noise

We have developed a Planning Noise Policy CC06 which sits within the Councils Managing Development Delivery (Local Plan) in accordance with National Planning Policy Framework and the Noise Policy Statement for England.  This will allow us to effectively manage developments within the Wokingham area and continue to protect residents from new noise sources and minimise the impact of existing noise sources on new developments.  We continue to respond to complaints about noise and where appropriate enforce the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and Control of Pollution Act 1974 in accordance with the DEFRA/CIEH Noise Management Guide and local procedure notes.


Contaminated Land

The law follows the ‘polluter pays principle’ whereby the person who caused or allowed the contamination to occur must pay to have it rectified. Local Authorities are required to have a written strategy setting out how they intend to deal with the potentially contaminated sites within its area.

The Borough has a Contaminated Land Strategy which sets out our approach to dealing with land contamination.  We are constantly updating and re-risk-scoring sites where remediation is known to have taken place or historic records have identified that no pollutants were present. We work closely with colleagues in the Development Management team to ensure sites are appropriately remediated through the Development Control process.

Further information is available on the Environmental Health section of our website


Private Water Supplies

The most recent Private Water Supply Regulations gave Local Authorities 5 years in which to risk assess all private supplies within their area.  Large supplies and the majority of small supplies have been assessed and where necessary action taken to improve the quality of the supply.  There is detailed government guidance on undertaking risk assessments as well as providing advice on dealing with supplies where the drinking water standard is not being met.

We report annually to the Drinking Water Inspectorate and work with Thames Water and South East Water attending workshops and utilise their skills with specialist cases.  We are also able to share information, best practice and ask questions on a Private Water Supply forum managed by Regulatory Information and Management Systems (RIAMS).

Air Quality


Poor air quality is a significant public health issue. The burden of particulate air pollution in the UK in 2008 was estimated to be equivalent to nearly 29,000 deaths at typical ages and an associated loss of population life of 340,000 life years lost (The Mortality Effects of Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution in the United Kingdom.  The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) (2010)).

The borough is a mix of urban developments and open countryside and generally air quality is very good, there are inevitably conflicts between the development of land and transport links and the protection of air quality as a result of increased traffic on our roads.


This has led to the declaration of 3 Air Quality Management Area’s (AQMA’s) along the M4, in Wokingham Town Centre and the crossroads in Twyford.  For each of these there is a need to produce a local action plan to address the problem. This section considers the impact of poor air quality as a result of transportation only.

Commercial and Environmental Noise

According to the World Health Organisation Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, because cardiovascular and psycho physiological effects reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour (WHO).

 

The Environmental Health teams respond to complaints concerning noise as well as ensuring that noise does not have a detrimental affect on the community through the Development Control process. We are also responsible for checking Noise Action Plans as a result of Environmental Noise Mapping by DEFRA.

 

Contaminated Land

Land that is contaminated from previous industrial or commercial uses has the potential to cause harm to health or ecology systems where a pathway exists that links the contaminant to a receptor e.g. vegetables intended for human consumption being grown in a contaminated vegetable plot.  Our Contaminated Land strategy outlines the process in which we will investigate sites as well as our ability to “clean up” sites through the Development Control process.

 

Private Water Supplies

There are properties within Wokingham which are not supplied by mains water.  They source their supply from a range of boreholes and springs.  They tend to be in rural locations and serve between 1 and several properties.  There are also some commercial supplies in the area serving large volumes of people.

Air Quality

Air quality within the borough is generally good despite having declared 3 AQMA’s (along the stretch of the M4 within the boundaries of Wokingham, Wokingham Town Centre and Twyford Centre).  We have a network of 60 diffusion tubes and two continuous monitoring units, one at Whitley Wood Lane and the other in Peach Street, Wokingham.  The data gathered help establish the Nitrogen Dioxide levels in these locations so that we can establish if the national objective is being exceeded. Levels at Whitley Wood Lane remain above the average annual mean concentration for NO2 of 40 μg/m3.


We publish an annual report based on the monitoring data for the calendar year.  In addition we are required to undertake a Further Assessment of air quality within the declared AQMA’s. These assessments will inform us of the likely source apportionment of the traffic within our AQMA’s and help shape the objectives in the Action Plan.  Like most Authorities, particulate matter is not measured.  Although it is only transportation considered within this report, it is worth noting that ‘major’ polluters are required to obtain a permit which controls the levels of emissions from either the local Authority or the Environment Agency.


Further information about air quality (including the annual reports) within the Borough is available on the Environmental Health pages of our website.


Noise

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published ‘First Priority Locations’ and ‘Important Area’ strategic noise maps for 38 locations and areas within the Borough where road traffic noise is predicted to have detrimental impacts on local residents.  The Highways Agency has prepared action plans for those they are responsible for and we have responded to DEFRA on these.


From April to September 2015 we have received 395 noise related complaints/enquiries, 135 relate to Commercial and Transport related sources, 260 relate to Residential sources.  Domestic noise (70+), Barking Dogs (70+) and Construction sites (40+) are the main sources to date.

In 2014/15 we received 700 complaints, 291 related to Commercial and Transport sources with 409 relating to Residential sources.  Barking Dogs (100+) and Licensed premises (100+) were the main cause of complaint. 


Contaminated Land

No sites within Wokingham have been declared as Contaminated Land under the statutory definition.  There are approximately 840 sites where historic and/or current land use has the potential to cause contamination or provide a link between contamination and the user on site. 

Between April and September 2015 we have responded  to 79 enquiries relating to contamination, these are in relation to property purchases and have dealt with 11 planning condition discharge requests. In 2014/15 we received a total of 109 and approx 30 contaminated land planning condition discharge requests.


Private Water Supplies

There are 20 private water supplies within the Wokingham area.  These have all now been risk assessed and where necessary treatment processes have been installed to improve the quality of the supply.  We also carry out sampling and work with supply owners on sites where large numbers of people are potentially exposed.

 

27 samples were taken during 2014/15 (sampling frequency is determined by the supply risk).

 

Air Quality 

The monitoring conducted suggests that since 2003 (when the most recent monitoring regime was set up) there have been changes to the levels of transport emissions recorded across the borough.  The declaration of 2 new AQMA’s in addition to an existing one shows that despite the close working there are still issues with transport generated pollution.

 

Noise 

These changes have been both positive and negative, close links to transport data must be maintained to understand how the road network and major developments and changes to infrastructure impacts air pollution and developments must be considered in light of their potential to bring in more vehicles to an area. 

 

Areas around noise and health impacts are still developing in particular links to cardio vascular diseases and traffic noise (WHO research).  We have not looked at whether there is any correlation with indices of deprivation and these higher noise areas.

 

Contaminated Land

Contaminated Landis being investigated however peoples concerns regarding the potential impact appear to vary significantly.  We have identified the potential health impacts of contaminated land as high however; due to the nature of the historic land use in this area this is unlikely. Soil analysis on sites developed across the area may be high but not at levels where wider health impacts are thought to exist.


Private Water

 

For Private Water Supplies the risk assessment should minimise the risk of illness from poor quality supplies.  We will monitor the highest risk (or be supplied with monitoring data) which will pick up if the water quality is reducing.
 

Air Quality 

Those living close to road networks or large scale developments/industry with pre-existing conditions likely to be exacerbated by lower standards of air quality will be disproportionately affected by decisions which lead to increased traffic.

Guidance for AQMA action plan measures suggests they should be targeted at these areas specifically; in order to achieve this there can be a diversion of resources which could reduce services to the wider population.


Noise

Environmental Health are not the prime investigators of complaints relating to Council owned properties so we cannot correlate data with regards to these pockets of properties.  For some complaints the ward is identified but this is limited so these have not been mapped with regards to deprivation indices. 


Contaminated Land 

Sites are located across the whole Borough and there is no correlation with any health indicators.  When working with specific sites where we have concerns we work with Public Health England (PHE) to ensure effective health consideration.  There are no identified clusters of incidents of poor health relating to known sites.  We are developing a hardship policy to ensure the financial penalty of living on contaminated land is minimised.

Air Quality

Generally the activities undertaken by the authority to monitor and understand air quality are sufficient; however there is a gap in knowledge and understanding of the areas likely to be impacted upon by future development. This needs to be mapped against the areas currently identified as close to the statutory limits.  Where possible we will seek funding from DEFRA to help with any projects aimed at improving air quality.

There may also be a situation where air quality improves in specific locations and de-commissioning of monitoring locations and the revocation of the AQMA can be achieved without risk to the local population. 


Noise

We are working with internal colleagues to ensure major infrastructure routes proposed in conjunction with the Strategic Development Locations (SDLs) do not have a detrimental impact on residents from noise. 

The internal Highways Team will need to look at “Important area” status for Noise Action planning where we are responsible for the Highway; it is uncertain whether or not this process has commenced.

Recommendations for consideration by other key organisations such as: CCGs, General Practices, Local Authority departments including housing and other providers.   

 

Make close links with the local GP surgeries in the areas identified as part of the monitoring and improve understanding of general statistics e.g. how many people suffer from conditions likely to be impacted upon by incidents of poor air quality. This may be affected by the ability to link home/work exposure to locations based on surgeries if people no longer live in the area but remain registered.  

Provision of information on real time data from the 2 continuous air-quality monitoring stations to GPs and CCGs which could result in text services and updates to vulnerable groups (there are case studies of AQ texting services).