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Air Quality in Newcastle-under-Lyme

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Air Quality Management Areas in Newcastle-under-Lyme

The four AQMAs in Newcastle-under-Lyme have been declared as the levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the legal amount. It is considered that this is due to road traffic emissions.


Air Quality Action Plans for Newcastle-under-Lyme

Work is underway to develop action plans for the AQMAs detailed above. These plans will identify measures which are intended to improve air quality by reducing the level of nitrogen dioxide mainly from road transport sources.


Air Quality Reports

Air Quality Reports for Newcastle-under-Lyme 
Report Description
2016 Annual Status Report (PDF 3.61mb) This report is based on data gathered for the 2015 calendar year. It identifies improvements in the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide. Howver there are still areas  which exceed the annual mean objective and the Council will maintain the AQMA's. The report also discusses for the first time the level of PM2.5 and the impact on health.
2015 Update and Screening Assessment (PDF 4.35mb) This report is based on data gatered for the 2014 calendar year. It identifies exceedances of the Nitrogen Dioxide annual mean  objective with tin the declared Air Quality Management Area's.
2014 Progress Report (PDF 5.13mb) This report confirms that there are higher levels of nitrogen dioxide than the annual mean in four areas of the borough. These are: Madeley (M6 motorway), Kidsgrove (A50 - Liverpool Road), Newcastle Town Centre (A34 Northbound - London Road); Newcastle Town Centre (A53 - King Street), Porthill (A527).
2013 Combined Deatiled and Further Assessment (PDF 5mb)

A combined detailed assessment with further assessment was carried out based on results from 2012 to determine the AQMA boundaries.

This report confirms that there are higher levels of nitrogen dioxide than the annual mean in four areas of the borough. These are: Madeley (M6 motorway) Kidsgrove (A50 - Liverpool Road) Newcastle Town Centre (A34 Northbound - London Road); Newcastle Town Centre (A53 - King Street), Porthill (A527).

2013 Progress Report (3.5mb) The report identified five geographical areas where the annual mean objective of nitrogen dioxide was exceeded. These are: Newcastle-under-Lyme Town Centre, Kidsgrove and Porthill. These areas were considered in the 2013 Combined Detailed and Further Assessment to determine the AQMA boundaries
2012 Update and Screening Assessment (4.31MB This report has identified the annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective at Madeley (M6 motorway) Kidsgrove (A50 – Liverpool Road) Newcastle Town Centre (A34 Northbound - London Road); Newcastle Town Centre (A53 – King Street)
Therefore, detailed assessments are needed in these areas to inform the minimum extent of the required air quality management areas

Annual Status Reports were introiduced for the 2016 reporting year and replaced the requirement to produce Update and Screening Assessments and Progress Reports.

Updating and screening assessments are needed on a three yearly basis and review air quality as a whole to determine whether there is a risk of any air quality objectives being exceeded.

Progress reports are needed once a year unless an "updating and screening assessment" is carried out. They are intended to maintain continuity in the local air quality management process and highlight new monitoring results and update on specific changes.

Detailed assessments are needed when a problem pollutant has been identified and there is a risk of exceeding an air quality objective. The reports provide an accurate assessment of the likelihood of the air quality objective being exceeded
























  Planning Applications and Air Quality

The Council currently follows the guidance recommended by EPUK Land-Use Planning and Development Control: Planning for Air Quality - May 2015 (v1.1) (PDF External Link). It is also requested that any assessment also considers the cumulative effect of the proposed development alongside permitted developments in the area.

It is requested that the scope and methodology of any air quality assessment is agreed in advance with officers from the Council's Environmental Protection Team. For more information, please contact 01782 742590 or e-mail customerservices@newcastle-staffs.gov.uk .


Biomass Boilers

Biomass boilers introduce a new source of pollution into an area. We require an air quality assessment to be included in planning applications including biomass boilers.

There are a number of smoke control areas in the borough. Installing a biomass boiler in a smoke control area without the relevant testing - and the necessary exemptions having been granted - means the operator runs the risk of prosecution under the Clean Air Act 1993. All biomass boilers in a smoke control area must be an "exempt appliance".

We have powers under the Clean Air Act to request the measurement of dust emissions from the biomass boiler exhaust stack and require arrestment plant to be installed to control dust emissions. The Clean Air Act is mainly aimed at controlling smoke, grit and dust; this legislation does not mitigate fine particulate matter emissions.

The technical details of the biomass boiler, emission concentrations, stack height, fuel specification, fuel storage and delivery arrangements must be submitted to us for approval.

The form below should be completed and included with your planning application. It will also provide the information we need for approving the boiler in accordance with the Clean Air Act 1993.

Guidance on best practice measures to control emissions are outlined in the biomass boiler emission control note below.

Biomass boiler information request form (PDF 277kb)

Pollution control legislation covering biomass boilers

The operation of a biomass boiler may require regulation under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations and the Waste Incineration Directive depending on the size of the boiler and type of biomass fuel, see Table 1 below. For example waste wood treated with preservatives or coatings may have high levels of heavy metals, halogenated compounds, generate dioxins and furans. The combustion of this type of wood is regulated under the Waste Incineration Directive.

Biomass boilers using waste wood from timber merchants or forest residues require regulation as Part B Installations under the LAPPC regime. Larger boilers are regulated by the Environment Agency as A1 installations. The IPPC regime is a much broader level of pollution control covering air, land, water and noise as well as energy and waste reduction and accident prevention.

A formal application for a permit must be made to us or the Environment Agency in order to operate these types of biomass boilers.

Table 1: Summary of pollution control legislation that applies to the operation of biomass boilers

Fuel Plant Size Pollution Control Regime Regulator
Biomass fuel arising from natural sources





Clean Air Act






Environment Agency


Waste or waste derived biomass exempt from WID

<0.4-3 MWth AND  <50 kg/hr

0.4 - 3MWth and 50 - 1000 kg/hr


Clean Air Act






Waste or waste derived biomass to which WID applies

<3 MWth

> 3MWth




Environment Agency

Best practice for controlling pollution emissions from biomass boilers

There are a number of best practise techniques for controlling emissions from biomass boilers related to fuel use, boiler design and operation. We require these measures to be adopted at new development sites that include biomass boilers as renewable energy sources.

Fuel use

The characteristics of the fuels used in biomass boilers have an important influence on pollution emissions. These include the origin of the fuel, chemical and physical properties. The use of quality wood fuel benefits reductions in pollution emissions from biomass boilers. This can be achieved through the use of wood that complies with biomass quality standards such as CEN/TC 335 and ONORM. The fuel specifications and classes for all solid biofuels are set out in CEN/TS 14961:2005, which defines certain chemical and physical parameters and property classes.

We require wood fuel used in biomass boilers to meet recognised fuel quality standards in particular CEN/TS 14961:2005.

Generally wood fuel of a consistent size and density is more favourable in terms of lower pollution emissions; wood pellets display these characteristics. Fuel quality control must be considered to guarantee that a constant supply of good quality wood is delivered and used throughout the operation of biomass boilers.

Boiler design specifications

Matching fuel specification and biomass boiler design.

There are various types of biomass boilers such as underfeed stoker boilers, moving or reciprocating grate boiler and plan grate boilers. It is important that the biomass boiler combustion system is applicable to specification of the wood that will be used in the boiler. Consideration should be given to moisture and ash content of the fuel, whether this is wet or dry, and the type of fuel such as straw, woodchips, wood pellets and briquettes.

Biomass boiler standard

BS EN 303-5:1999 applies to heating boilers for solid fuels, hand and automatically fired, nominal heat output of up to 300kW.  This standard covers properties such as performance, efficiency, emissions, thermal output, pressure testing, safety measures and testing. We require biomass boilers less than 300kw to meet the efficiency standards of EN303-5:1999. Boilers greater than 300kw should have an efficiency rating above 85 per cent.

Boiler design features

There are various biomass boiler design parameters that optimise combustion and ensure continuous performance. The technical design features below are considered best practice for controlling emissions to air:-

  1. combustion chamber design and provision of secondary air supply
  2. combustion air control technology - LAMDAR sensor
  3. flue gas recirculation
  4. automatic de-ashing
  5. heat-exchange cleaning
  6. automatic fuel feed system
  7. automatic ignition
  8. variable load management and modulating ability including the use of an accumulation tank
  9. articulate matter arrestment plant such as a multi-cyclones or ceramic filter

Boiler operation

The biomass boiler, abatement technology and stack should be associated with a written maintenance schedule and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This will ensure continued performance and control of emissions. The biomass boiler should be serviced at least once a year by a trained service engineer. Staff operating and maintaining the boiler should receive appropriate training and instructions from the boiler manufacturer.

Boiler stack height

The height of biomass boilers exhaust stack must be calculated to ensure effective dispersion of pollution emissions. Stack height approval is a requirement of the Clean Air Act 1993. We require dispersion modelling to be used to determine stack height and demonstrate the impact of emissions on local air quality. This shall be presented as an air quality assessment with your planning application.

Fuel delivery, storage and handling

There should be sufficient space for storing fuel inside buildings and, for most dry biomass stores, good ventilation. This will be necessary to prevent the build-up of condensation, allow additional drying and to prevent the formation of moulds, the spores of which can be a serious health hazard if inhaled.

Consideration must be given to how the fuel delivery into the store will take place. This typically requires both vehicular access and a convenient way to transfer the fuel from the delivery lorry into the store.

With some fuels such as wood pellets it can be important to ensure that they are not handled too roughly as they can disintegrate into sawdust which may cause difficulties for combustion. It is generally considered best practice to minimise the number of handling steps with wood pellets.


Chimney height approvals

Under the Clean Air Act 1993, where a furnace is used without prior approval, or without complying with any conditions, it is an offence which carries a fine of up to £5,000.

The height of chimneys

Unless the height of the chimney has been approved and any conditions are followed, it is an offence to cause or knowingly allow a furnace to be used to:-

  • burn pulverised fuel
  • burn at a rate of 45.4kg or more an hour any other solid matter or
  • burn at a rate equivalent to 366.4 kW or more any liquid or gaseous matter

You need to have the height of your chimney approved by us if you propose installing equipment to burn certain fuel types or minimum volumes of matter.

You will need to submit details and calculations regarding the height of chimney(s) used to vent the emissions. Download application for approval by the council of the height of chimney (PDF 114kb)

We must consider an application and give a written decision within 28 days of receipt, unless it is agreed in writing between us and the applicant that a longer period is allowed. If we fail to deal with the application within this period, then approval without qualification is given.

More information on the requirements relating to chimney heights is provided in "Chimney Heights", Third Edition of the 1956 Clean Air Act Memorandum, available from The Stationery Office - www.tso.co.uk (External Link).


Air Pollutants and Health Effects

The national air quality objectives are prescribed for seven key pollutants in the air quality regulations. These include nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, lead, 1-3 butadiene, carbon monoxide, benzene and dust. In Newcastle, like much of the UK, nitrogen dioxide from road traffic is the main pollutant of concern. The pollutants we measure in one or more places are:
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – associated with road transport, domestic boilers and industrial processes
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2) – associated with power stations, domestic boilers and industry
  • Particulate matter (PM10) – associated with vehicle exhausts (diesels), boilers and some construction activities

The table below summarises the different air pollutants subject to review and assessment, the potential sources and health effects.



Health Effects

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Cars and power stations (locally cars and heating appliances).

Affects breathing and worsens some allergies.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

Power stations and some industries (locally coal fires).

Affects breathing.

Lead (Pb)

Cars and some industries. Levels declining since introduction of unleaded petrol.

Toxic in high concentrations – can damage nerves, kidneys, joints and reproductive system.


Cars and some industries.

May cause cancer.

Carbon monoxide (CO)


Toxic in high concentrations – affects breathing and ability to concentrate. Can damage the nerves.

Benzene (C6H6)

Cars and some industries.

Can cause cancer.

Particulate Matter (PM10)

Some industries, cars and fuel-burning (locally cars and industry

Can cause various health effects.


What pollutants are monitored by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council?

The pollutants we monitor in one or more places are:

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – associated with road transport, domestic boilers and industrial processes
Particulate matter (PM10) – associated with vehicle exhausts (diesels), boilers and some construction activities

How do we monitor?

The Council uses a combination of passive and continuous sampling methods.

Passive Diffusion Tube Sampling

Diffusion tubes are used to sample nitrogen dioxide across an extensive network of sites in the borough. Diffusion tubes are an inexpensive method of monitoring; they provide general indications of concentrations and trends of pollutants over a period of time. The tubes are usually mounted to lamp posts or building frontages and are exposed for a month during which they passively absorb a specific pollutant. At the end of the month they are sent away to a laboratory for analysis and replaced with a new tube.

Automatic Real Time Sampling

Two automatic monitoring stations are used to sample nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in Newcastle Town Centre. The stations which are located in Jubilee2 and Queen's Gardens contain high quality nitrogen dioxide chemiluminescent analysers and a BAM 1020 particulate monitor. These are much more expensive than diffusion tubes and highly complex. The information collected is usually accurate and highly reliable; measurements are taken continuously and provide real time concentrations of pollutants.

Where do we monitor?

There are currently 35 nitrogen dioxide diffusion tubes located at various sites around the borough. The sites have been chosen to represent locations where air pollution levels might be highest or present particular threats. Nitrogen dioxide tubes are generally located by busy roads or in sites providing background pollutant levels.

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