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District releases positive air quality report

Sun in the sky

Encouraging figures from the monitoring of air quality in Blaby District throughout 2021 have shown no significant levels of concern in nitrogen dioxide across major road networks.

In its Air Quality Annual Status Report to DEFRA, Blaby District Council has revealed that the five ‘Air Quality Management Areas’ (AQMAs) have not returned to the higher pre-pandemic levels recorded in 2018 and 2019.

Air Quality Management Areas are declared when levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the national limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter air (known as μg/m3). No AQMAs have exceeded the national limit since 2018, and the latest figures have all been measured well below 40μg/m3.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw an improvement in air quality across the country as national lockdowns saw empty roads. This included a hugely positive impact on the district’s air quality, particularly in the five AQMAs. Despite the return of large volumes of vehicles in 2021 as normality returned, air quality has remained below national objectives.

Mill Hill in Enderby has previously had one of the highest levels of monitored nitrogen dioxide in the district. The elevated levels have reduced from their 2018 high of 47μg/m3 to 29μg/m3 in the most recent 2021 measurements.

Other AQMAs include the M1 corridor between Leicester Forest East and Thorpe Astley, which recorded a high of 27μg/m3 at a monitoring point on Hinckley Road, a huge reduction from the 2018 peak of 47μg/m3.

Measurements recorded at Enderby Road in Whetstone in 2021 were lower than in 2020, at 19μg/m3.

The M1 corridor between Enderby and Narborough has remained at an acceptable level of air quality, down to 24μg/m3. Levels also remain low at the A5460 Narborough Road South, measuring 20μg/m3, in trend with the previous three years.

Whilst the AQMAs have seen a significant reduction since 2019, Blaby District Council will be keeping all locations as designated air quality management areas to continue long-term measurement of air quality and to monitor the effect of nearby developments in line with national guidance.

Blaby District Council has received more than £275,000 in grant funding to continue its positive work to tackle air quality. The new funding is targeted towards the Countdown to Clean Air Project, which will include working in schools, businesses and community groups to encourage alternative methods of travel.

Councillor Les Phillimore, Portfolio Holder for Housing, Community and Environmental Services Portfolio Holder, said: “There is no doubt that the pandemic helped improve air quality in our district, including in our AQMAs. It has been encouraging to see that as life returned to normality in 2021 our numbers did not return to pre-pandemic levels.

“We are not complacent and will be making sure we use this as an opportunity to do what we can to keep improving our air quality. Everyone can contribute to helping keep our air quality at these encouraging levels by walking or cycling where possible.

We’re excited about the Countdown to Clean Air Project and will continue our extensive monitoring in key areas to make sure that these promising signs continue in the long-term.”

The Air Quality Annual Status Report will be available in full on the Blaby District Council website in the coming weeks on the website.

24 May 2022