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Figures show big improvements in Leicester’s air quality

Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2018

AIR pollution in Leicester is at its lowest recorded levels in ten years, according to the latest figures released by the city council.

The latest recorded levels – collected from monitoring stations at five key locations across the city in 2017 – show that Leicester is meeting all current national air quality guidelines except for nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

European and national guidelines set a limit of 40micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) for nitrogen dioxide levels in the air.

Like other UK cities, Leicester still exceeds this target in some areas.

However, average levels of NO2 across the city are at a ten-year low and show a reduction of almost 33 per cent since 2010, when the highest levels, of up to 80µg/m3, were recorded.

Levels of NO2 recorded on Abbey Lane, Glenhills Way and Melton Road are at the lowest-ever recorded levels, with Melton Road falling slightly below the national limit for NO2 for the first time.

At Abbey Lane, recorded levels of NO2 have fallen from 63µg/m3 in 2010 to 33µg/m3 in 2017, a 48 per cent reduction.

Melton Road’s figures show a drop from 58µg/m3 in 2010 to 39.6µg/m3 last year, bringing it in within national limits for the first time.

At Glenhills Way, levels have dropped from 80µg/m3 in 2010 to 53µg/m3 in 2017.

Levels of NO2 recorded at St Matthew’s Way show a reduction from 62µg/m3 in 2010 to 44µg/m3 in 2017, and at Vaughan Way levels have dropped from 68µg/m3 to 53µg/m3.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “When I was first elected as City Mayor in 2011, Leicester’s air pollution data made for very troubling reading.

“Since then, we have put our Air Quality Plan in place, made significant investment in a wide range of measures and worked closely with other interested partners in the city to improve air quality.

“I am pleased that the most recent data shows a huge improvement in air quality across the city, but we know that there is more that needs to done.

“Nevertheless, it is encouraging that this shared determination and willingness to commit to measures set out in the city’s air quality action plan is helping to achieve our goal of cleaner, healthier air for Leicester.

“I am sure that this will be welcome news for people who live and work in Leicester, and it is something the whole city can be proud of.”

Leicester’s Air Quality Action Plan, launched in 2015, is leading the delivery of improvements by introducing a citywide low emission zone for buses backed by £25milllion investment from local bus companies in new and retrofitted fleets, and later implementing an ultra-low emission zone that would cover all vehicles larger than a motorcycle.

The plan also commits to extending the city’s award-winning Connecting Leicester works, which help to promote sustainable travel such as walking and cycling by making improvements to streets and the public realm.

Deputy City Mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and public health, said: “These latest figures are very encouraging but like all cities, we still face ongoing challenges to tackle air pollution.

“We are already taking ambitious and positive steps to tackle air quality in Leicester, but our nitrogen dioxide levels are still above the EU target level in some areas and we want to address that as quickly as possible.

“It’s vitally important that we continue to tackle air pollution, because it is bad for people’s health – cleaner air is better for our economy too.

“Leicester has made good progress in recent years but we now need more Government support – and funding – to meet the challenges we still face.”

Air pollution occurs when the amount of certain pollutants exceed recommended levels based on their known effects on health.

Leicester is compliant with national guidelines for all other currently stated pollutants. These include benzene, 1,3-butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead, sulphur dioxide and PM10 particulates.

All local authorities will be required to monitor and report on PM2.5 levels from 2020. The EU and national limit for PM2.5 is expected to be 25µg/m3. Early modelling of this pollutant being carried out by the University of Leicester suggests the city’s current levels are around 12µg/m3.

From 1 June, the city council will re-declare the whole city a smoke control area, bringing 38 previous orders that have been in place for over four decades under one single order. The move – that aims to make it easier for householders and businesses to understand their obligations and comply with clean air laws – has been highlighted as an example of good local leadership in the Government’s draft Clean Air Strategy 2018.

Leicester’s annual air quality figures are ratified by experts at King’s College London as required by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).