Air quality

Air quality – did you know?

Air quality is the degree to which the air in a particular area is pollution-free. Poor air quality has a massive impact on everyone’s lives, public health, the economy and the environment.

The air pollution sources emit a wide range of pollutants classified under different categories that include Sulfur Dioxide (SO2), particulate matter (PM2.5), Hydrocarbons (HC) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), Lead, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), and Smog.

Road transport is the greatest source of emissions which create harmful NO2 emissions.

What are we doing in South Essex?


What is the problem? 

The South Essex region is facing unprecedented growth in terms of housing (40,000 new houses) and employment (70,000 new jobs). This has key implications for travel and air quality, with demand for additional trips forecast to increase by up to 30% by 2037.

This growth is positive for the region, however we cannot keep building new roads - this is unsustainable, so we need a new solution.

What are we doing?

We are currently monitoring air quality in South Essex as part of an ongoing study which will inform future efforts to cut air pollution.

Basildon Borough Council, Rochford District Council and Essex County Council have investigated the possible options that could be put into effect to improve the air quality.  The agreed list of options was presented to the Department for Education, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in March 2018.

Strategic Outline Case decisions:


Click on your local authority to see what they are doing about air quality.

Health impacts

Even short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can cause a wide range of negative health effects – it can trigger asthma, affect lung function and increase hospital admissions, as well as mortality.

Air pollution is damaging to the health of all of us but particularly young children and those with heart and lung problems.

How can I make a change?

If feasible, leave the car at home and try cycling to work.

An hour long bike ride burns 500 calories - that’s the equivalent of five bags of crisps.

Economic impacts

The annual cost of air pollution to the UK is in the region of £20 billion.

Air pollution particularly threatens economic growth by impacting upon people of working age - if staff have to take days off work due to air pollution-related illnesses, the economy suffers.

Can your business help promote sustainable travel methods for your staff?

Inspire people, businesses and other employers to act by sharing your success.

Environmental impacts

Air pollution is responsible for significant damage to the natural environment.

NO2 contributes to the pollution of soil and watercourses, which impacts on animal and plant life as well as biodiversity.

NO2 also impacts upon local ozone production, which has public health impacts and damages agricultural crops, forests and plants.

Who is responsible?

Everyone’s actions have an effect on air quality, but local authorities are responsible for ensuring that targets are met. You can use the map above to find out what is being done where you are.

Where poor air quality is a result of traffic, the County Council as the highways authority in Essex has a responsibility to solve these issues.

What are the local authorities doing?


Early Measures Funding


Electric vehicles 

We have received funding from Defra to install additional electric charging facilities across Basildon borough and Rochford district to support the uptake of electric vehicles. These new charging facilities are expected to be in place by summer 2019.

A further bid has been submitted to Defra for funding specifically to support the introduction of electric charging points at taxi ranks.


We are currently planning to upgrade cycle facilities along Cranes Farm Road in Basildon thanks to funding from Defra. We expect this work will be completed by April 2019.


More than £1 million from Defra’s Clean Bus Technology Fund has been secured by Essex County Council, Rochford District Council and Colchester Borough Council to clean up emissions from buses along the A127 corridor, as well as in Colchester. 


Simple steps to improve your air quality



Swap a short car journey for a walk instead.

Utilise the Essex footpaths and public rights of way for a countryside walk.

Plan your route away from main roads to avoid the worst areas of poor air quality.  


Employers can encourage staff to hop on a bike through the Government’s Cycle to work scheme.

The Essex Cycling strategy sets out a whole host of initiatives to encourage cycling including cycling routes and maps.

Cycling training is also available for all ages across the county.

Public Transport  

Find your nearest bus stop and plan your journey at

Plan a trip using South Essex’s well connected trains into London or to Southend.

Do you qualify for a discount? There’s a number of schemes set up to help promote bus and train travel – find out more and see if you can save money


Consider car sharing for school runs, commutes and other journeys where possible.

Switch off your vehicle when standstill, at the school gates, in long traffic queues and while picking up or dropping off.

Grants are available to encourage people to buy electric vehicles.