A first exemption request for the Greater London Urban Area air quality zone was rejected in December 2009 because not enough information was available to assess whether the limit values for PM10 could be met by the extended deadline.
The Commission has decided today that a second request for a time extension satisfies the conditions in the directive. These include demonstrating that steps have been taken to achieve compliance by the June deadline and that an air quality plan is in place setting out the relevant abatement actions.
However, the Commission considers there may still be a risk of the daily limit value being exceeded after the exemption period. The request is therefore granted on the condition that short-term measures are introduced to control, or, where necessary, suspend activities which contribute to the risk of the limit values being exceeded.
It is up to the UK to decide which specific actions to introduce. These could include measures in relation to traffic, construction work, ships at berth and the use of industrial plants or products and domestic heating.
London's air quality plan will need to be revised by 11 June to include the short-term measures and submitted to the Commission.
Under the 2008 EU air quality directive member states may, under strict conditions and for specific parts of the country, extend the time for meeting the PM10 standards until 11 June 2011.
Airborne particles (PM10) are mainly present in pollutant emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating. They can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death, which is why the Commission has sought to regulate these pollutants under the directive.