London breaching air pollution limits

More than one thousand locations in England still breaching air pollution limits.

The government must also end its damaging fixation on building more roads.

A data audit by Friends of the Earth has revealed the 1,360 sites across England that have breached the annual Air Quality Objective for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels, which are set to protect health.

The leading cause of NO2 pollution is emissions from road traffic, which is also a huge source of climate-wrecking emissions. Friends of the Earth is campaigning to remove polluting vehicles from the road and clean up transport – to fight the climate crisis and to protect public health.

Although the most recent data shows a marginal improvement from previous years (last year’s audit found 1,591 English locations breaching limits) there is still a shocking number of locations exceeding the Air Quality Objective, which Local Authorities have to achieve. Some places show very high levels of exposure (up to 144 percent above the objective). 


Simon Bowens, clean air campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Failing to fix air pollution costs lives. It also shows a failure to address the climate crisis because the sources and solutions are intrinsically linked.

"If ministers want to avoid a return to the health-damaging and illegal levels of air pollution we had before lockdown, their enthusiasm for ‘active travel’ needs to be a permanent switch and not just a short-term gap plugger.

“The government must also end its damaging fixation on building more roads. You can’t justify this by planning to phase out polluting petrol and diesel vehicles and replace them with electric ones. We need to go much further than just getting out of one type of car and into another.

"Investment in better cycling and walking should be part of a fair and green post-coronavirus economic recovery plan aimed at creating a cleaner, fairer future.”


Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery (which funds action against air pollution across the country) said: “Air pollution affects us all. It’s the old, the young, the poor and the sick who suffer most. But we will all benefit from a reduction in vehicle emissions.

The government must also end its damaging fixation on building more roads.

"Our towns and cities will be cleaner, more pleasant places to live and work and we’ll be helping to fight climate change too. I am proud that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting local projects across the country which are tackling air pollution and climate change. By working together, we really can make a difference.”

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for a green and fair recovery from the coronavirus crisis. The government must step up and commit to building a future that’s greener, safer and fairer for everyone.

Click here for the air pollution map of England (use this link for media preview ahead of embargo lifting), and spreadsheet organised by region and local authority here.

This Article 

This article is based on a press release from Friends of the Earth. 

More from this author