Local authorities across England can now apply for a share of £6 million of government funding to deliver projects to improve air quality.
The annual Air Quality Grant helps councils develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses and communities and reduce the impact of air pollution on people’s health. Since 2010, more than £53 million has been awarded across more than 500 projects through the scheme.
Funding will be prioritised towards projects which: tackle particulate matter; improve public awareness of the impacts of air pollution; and help local authorities to bring down levels of nitrogen oxide (NO2) and other pollutants to below legal limits.
Air quality in the UK has significantly improved in recent decades, with levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – the most harmful pollutant to human health – falling by 10% and NO2 by 45% since 2010. The government is committed to driving this down further and, through the Environment Act, has set two legally-binding targets to reduce the level of PM2.5 in our air by 2040.
Environment Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to human health and local authorities play a vital role in tackling it.
“This latest round of funding will support innovative projects across England that give communities the tools to limit their exposure and reduce pollution.
“Together, this will build on the significant improvements in air quality delivered by the government at a national level and deliver cleaner air for all.”
Previous initiatives funded through the Air Quality Grant scheme include delivering an air quality awareness programme to over 3,000 students in Cornwall. The grant has also funded an e-cargo bike library, helping local businesses in Norfolk to cut operating costs while lowering their emissions; and helped train healthcare professionals in Southampton so they can advise vulnerable patients about how to reduce their exposure to air pollution. These projects have benefited communities by delivering targeted solutions to local air quality problems.
Health Minister Neil O’Brien said: “Air pollution poses health risks, particularly for older people, children, and people with heart or lung conditions which is why we’re committed to making our air cleaner.
“This year’s fund builds on the significant action we’re already taking to improve air quality, and I urge local authorities across England to bid for funding to help improve the health of people living in their areas.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The £1 million our region received through the Air Quality Fund will make a significant contribution to the work already underway to improve the quality of the air local people breathe.
“For the first time ever, we’ll be able to install a West Midlands-wide network of sensors that will provide real-time, publicly accessible information on air quality directly from individual neighbourhoods. Thanks to this government funding, we’ll also take this data back into those communities to improve residents’ understanding of the sources and impact of air pollution on health and wellbeing.
“Together, we can empower local people to support our efforts to ensure the air we all breathe is cleaner than ever.”
Through the Environmental Improvement Plan and our Air Quality Strategy, both published earlier this year, the Government has set out interim targets to reduce concentrations of, and reduce public exposure to, PM2.5 by the end of January 2028, alongside a range of policies to work towards these targets.
Together, the Plan and the Strategy committed to challenging councils to improve air quality more quickly including by making better use of existing powers, increasing transparency and improving the way they communicate with the public. Today’s announcement is another key step forward in the delivery of these commitments, said the Government.
The scheme complements the range of support government is making available to local authorities, including £883 million allocated under the NO2 Programme – which works with local authorities to deliver air quality measures to improve the health of residents and to address their NO2 exceedances in the shortest possible time.
The application window is now open and closes on 29th September. Local authorities can apply for funding on Atamis here.