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What we say about… Air quality

Air pollution and climate change · Position statements | September 7, 2023

Our key messages

  • Air pollution causes death and disability and costs the UK economy £22.6 billion every year.


  • Public health should be placed at the centre of air quality control and future national planning policy to improve population health and wellbeing and reduce the social cost of poor health. 


  • Policies with co-benefits on public health, air quality and climate change should be considered.  


  • Local authorities (LAs) should be supported with resources, adequate staffing, and additional inspection capacity to enforce restrictions and reduce pollution. Enforceable restrictions should also be imposed within the existing regulatory framework. 


  • The UK Government needs to deliver active travel and public transport infrastructure and interventions that have significant co-benefits to health. 

Our national recommendations

  • Governments across the four nations should set out clear, funded plans to adopt and achieve WHO’s air quality standards, outlining the role and the relevant support for local public health authorities.


  • Governments across the four nations should prioritise active travel and continue to invest in infrastructure for active travel. 


  • Governments across the four nations should improve public transport and ensure that it is safe, cheap, convenient, regular, reliable, clean, and connected.  


  • Governments across the four nations should support commercial fleet operators to switch to more environmentally friendly fuels and technologies and lead the way by switching to lower polluting vehicles for the NHS and other public sector fleet vehicles.


  • The Government should commit to a cost-benefit analysis of a national diesel scrappage scheme in England. 


  • The Government should incentivise the use of low-emission vehicles. 


Our local recommendations

  • Public health and planning departments should collaborate more closely and make a commitment to improving air quality  in strategy documents that guide planning decisions.


  • Trees can filter pollutants from the atmosphere and are important in improving air quality so planning decisions should ensure adequate green space in local areas.  


  • Local areas should adhere to NICE guidance on air pollution and building emission standards. Infrastructure to support active travel and use of public transport needs to continue to be developed and local areas should aim for at least 10% of the local transport budget to be dedicated to active travel. 


  • Specific Air Quality Policies should be included in all Local Plans to restrict, where appropriate, any new development in areas of identified poor air quality. New developments should consider mitigation options for impact on air quality. 


  • Areas should consider adopting a 20-mph speed limit and phased traffic lighting where it is feasible and appropriate. 
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