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Government statistics show that as many as 40% of local authorities in the UK breached legal air quality limits last year.

Figures obtained by Neil Parish MP in a Written Parliamentary Question to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reveal that as many as 169 local authorities (out of a UK total of 418) were found to be in breach of annual limits on nitrogen dioxide in 2015 – a gas linked to lung disease and cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes. The data also showed illegal air quality to be widespread across the country, with councils in all four nations of the UK breaking legal limits on nitrogen dioxide.

A report in April from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Mr Parish, stated that poor air quality was linked to over 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. It called on the Government to act quickly to improve air quality and give local authorities wide-ranging powers to cut pollutant levels.

The MP is working with the liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue to call for all local authorities to have the power and the funding to introduce a Clean Air Zone in pollution hotspots to improve air quality. This month, Government made available a £3 million pot for councils to bid for funding to improve local air quality.

Commenting, Neil Parish MP said:

“These are shocking statistics. When we think of areas breaking air quality laws, we usually think of a handful of areas in our busiest towns and cities. These figures show just how widespread the problem is across the UK. It requires a comprehensive solution – urgently.

“The Government needs to act now to give all councils the power – and crucially, the funding – to implement a Clean Air Zone and limit the most polluting vehicles in hotspot areas. The £3 million Government funding pot is a start, but not nearly enough. We also need a big push to incentivise electric and low emissions vehicles to replace the oldest, most polluting vehicles.”

Sam Hall, environment researcher at the liberal conservative think tank Bright Blue, said:

“Forty percent of local authorities in the UK breached legal air pollution limits last year. Poor air quality is clearly a national public health issue that requires urgent action.

“The Government’s current plans for Clean Air Zones in just five cities do not go far enough. Ministers should enable all city councils to set up Clean Air Zones to restrict the dirtiest cars from urban centres. Together with measures to encourage greater uptake of electric vehicles, this approach would reduce air pollution, cut carbon emissions, and boost automotive manufacturing in the UK.”


Notes to editors:

For further media enquiries, please contact our Communications Manager of Bright Blue, Laura Round, on or 07543759844.