WMCA launches air quality plan

The West Midlands Combined Authority has begun implementing a plan aimed at significantly improving air quality and the health of local people 

The plan, initially announced in February, will be delivered with £1 million of government air quality funding.

It will include research into the potential to positively impact air quality by reducing speed limits on high-speed roads and in urban centres.

Other measures include installing a network of air quality sensors that will provide real-time, publicly accessible data on pollution levels across the region, education and awareness campaigns in communities, development of an alert system when pollution levels are high and devising regional targets that exceed current national and international guidelines on levels of PM2.5 and PM10 particulates, and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

These initial measures will be delivered over the next two years and are part of the WMCA’s wider Air Quality Framework – a longer-term document that sets out measures that must be considered in partnership with local authorities, central government, businesses and local communities to accelerate improvements to air quality on a regional scale.

The fFramework focuses on reducing high levels of harmful microscopic particles in the air, known as PM2.5 and PM10, that come from things like wood-burners, factories and tyre dust.

These particulates can cause illnesses like asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, with long-term exposure also estimated to be responsible for 2,300 premature deaths every year in the West Midlands.

The adverse health effects of poor quality air have led to hundreds of local people – many with lung conditions impacted by air pollution – signing a petition calling on local leaders in the region to prioritise improving air quality.

The petition has been handed to Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, by representatives from Asthma + Lung UK.

The Mayor said: “We all want and deserve to breathe clean air but sadly there are still 2,300 premature deaths every year in our region due to air pollution.

“This demonstrates the need to take further action to address this issue. That’s why we’ve drawn up a plan – in close collaboration with our local authority partners – that is backed by an initial £1m of Government funding.

“We acknowledge and understand the depth of concern shown by local people – evident from the numbers who have signed Asthma + Lung UK’s recent petition. We’re committed to delivering solutions that ensure we’re leading the way when it comes to cleaner air.

“Together, we can make the West Midlands a place where local people benefit from the unmatched purity of our air in the months and years ahead.”

Tim Dexter, clean air lead at Asthma + Lung UK, said: “We welcome this new plan to address harmful levels of air pollution in the West Midlands. A bold and united approach is essential to protecting lung health in communities across the region.

“With hundreds of signatures from local residents, our petition highlights the need for local leaders to make tackling air pollution a top priority. This plan is a step towards guaranteeing everyone in our towns and cities can breathe cleaner air and have a healthier future.”

Improving air quality is already a key part of the WMCA’s long-term commitment to reducing health inequalities and improving the region’s environment.

The Authority has made a video explaining its aims:

(Picture: Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA chair, with Tim Dexter, Asthma + Lung UK clean air lead and Maddy Dawe, the charity’s regional campaigns and policy officer, courtesy WMCA)

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