Plans unveiled to improve local authority action on air quality

A consultation on delivering cleaner air in towns, cities and rural areas across England has been launched today (11 April).

The Government is seeking views on a revised Air Quality Strategy which outlines how councils in England should use their existing powers and responsibilities more effectively to deliver improvements to air quality.

The draft strategy includes:

  • Outlining the actions councils can undertake to improve air quality
  • Setting out actions for councils to reduce emissions of fine particulate matter, the pollutant most damaging to health
  • Providing a framework to enable local authorities to make the best use of their powers and deliver for their communities

Following consultation, a final strategy will be published, providing a framework to support local action to improve air quality, in consultation with local communities. This will drive forward progress towards achieving the government’s legally-binding targets for all key air pollutants, including those recently set under the Environment Act for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

The final strategy will complement the range of support government makes available to local authorities, including £883 million allocated under the Nitrogen Dioxide Programme, and funding awarded annually under Defra’s local Air Quality Grant scheme to develop and implement measures that benefit schools, businesses and communities, and reduce the impact of polluted air on people’s health.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “By taking action in communities across the country, local authorities have a pivotal role to play in improving air quality, and they should listen to local residents and local businesses to find solutions that work best for their local area.

“Building on the great strides made in tackling air pollution at a national level since 2010, this strategy will help councils to go further and faster to improve air quality for the benefit of their residents. I encourage all local authorities to respond so together, we can deliver cleaner air – now and for the future.

“The government is taking decisive action to improve air quality. Our five year strategy to protect and restore the environment, which we published in January, sets out interim targets to reduce concentrations of, and public exposure to, PM2.5 by the end of January 2028, alongside a range of policies to work towards these targets. This builds on the progress made since 2010, where emissions of fine particulate matter [PM2.5] have fallen by 18%, and emissions of nitrogen oxides are at their lowest level since records began.”

The Plan also committed to helping councils to improve air quality more quickly by assessing their performance and use of existing powers, while supporting them with clear guidance, funding and tools. The consultation launched today (link) represents a significant step forward in the delivery of these commitments.

The strategy builds on existing net zero programmes implemented by the government, including our National Air Pollution Control Programme (NAPCP), which sets out how the UK can meet the legally binding 2020 and 2030 emission reduction commitments, and the 2019 Clean Air Strategy, which sets out the comprehensive actions required across all parts of government and society to improve air quality.


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