Birmingham City Council has decided that it - along with the rest of the West Midlands - will meet the statutory air quality objectives for 2005 and will not need to declare an air quality management area (AQMA).
As many as 100 urban centres were expected to declare AQMAs, according to unofficial estimates (ENDS Report 307, p 13 ). But Birmingham's decision may upset predictions - if England's second largest city with major motorways and heavy industry does not need to declare why should smaller authorities?
The answer is in the approach to predicting pollution levels. Birmingham has one of the most comprehensive data sets on air quality, stretching back for years. Other authorities have had to make do with data sets going back just 12 months or so and filled the gaps with modelling.
Birmingham admits that levels of oxides of nitrogen will be borderline, and it is stepping up monitoring activity. It plans to embark on its second review and assessment immediately - authorities have until the end of 2003 to complete this process.
Birmingham's approach has yet to face peer review by the Department of the Environment's consultants. The council's stage three review report is currently out to consultation and will be submitted for approval soon.