West Midlands launches £1 million plan to boost air quality

Posted: 27 November 2023 | | No comments yet

WMCA launches a £1 million government-backed initiative to improve air quality and public health, incorporating real-time monitoring, education campaigns and surpassing international guidelines.

West Midlands launches £1 million plan to boost air quality

Credit: West Midlands Combined Authority

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has announced that it has launched a comprehensive plan to enhance air quality and public health across the region. The initiative, supported by an initial £1 million in UK government funding, will implement priority measures over the next two years.

Key components of the plan include the installation of a network of real-time air quality sensors, education campaigns in communities and schools, an alert system for high pollution levels, research on speed limit reductions to positively impact air quality, as well as the establishment of regional targets surpassing national and international guidelines for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.

WMCA’s Air Quality Framework, a long-term strategy, will guide these measures. The framework emphasises collaboration with local authorities, central government, businesses and communities to accelerate regional air quality improvements. Focusing on reducing harmful microscopic particles (PM2.5 and PM10), the plan targets sources such as wood-burners, factories and tire dust.

These particulates contribute to diseases like asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, causing an estimated 2,300 premature deaths annually in the West Midlands. Acknowledging public concern, a petition signed by hundreds of individuals, especially those impacted by air pollution-related lung conditions, had been presented to Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair.

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Mayor Street 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.”

Improving air quality aligns with WMCA’s commitment to reducing health inequalities and enhancing the region’s environment. Existing efforts include the Natural Environment Plan, promoting biodiversity through tree planting and support for electric buses and cycling routes to green the transport network.

Councillor John Cotton, WMCA portfolio lead for environment and energy, said: “Poor air quality remains the single biggest environmental risk to public health. The health impacts are significant and disproportionately affect people living in deprivation, the very young and the old. We all have an obligation to take action to reduce the sources of this pollution and all local authorities in the West Midlands are already delivering their own plans.”

The plan has received positive feedback from organisations like Mums for Lungs, aiming to reduce air pollution’s impact on children, and the Clean Air Justice Network, advocating for vulnerable communities affected by poor air quality. 

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