Essex Highways, Safer, Greener, Healthier

Air quality

Air pollution is a term for the different types of pollution in the air around us, while air quality is the extent to which the air in a particular area is pollution-free.

Historically, the main air pollution problem was high levels of smoke and sulphur dioxide caused by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, used for domestic and industrial purposes. Today, however, the biggest threat to clean air is road traffic, making up an estimated 55% of nitrogen dioxide emissions in Essex.

Petrol and diesel vehicles emit a variety of pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx). The majority of NOx emitted is in the form of nitric oxide (NO). When NO reacts with other gases present in the air, it can form nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is harmful to health.

Pollutants from vehicles can travel long distances and have a huge impact on our lives and the environment around us.

In Basildon, almost 6% of all deaths (people aged over 30) each year can be attributed to air pollution. Longer term exposure can increase your risk of lung cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease, while even short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, affect lung function and increase hospital admissions.

Did you know?

About 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution.

What are we doing in Basildon?

What is the problem?

Air pollution, mainly caused by vehicles on the roads, is having a harmful effect on the health of people living, visiting and working in parts of Basildon and must be addressed.

Engine technology is improving and emissions from vehicles will gradually fall as people buy newer, less polluting vehicles, but this is not happening quickly enough to protect the children growing up in Basildon right now and could be further delayed by the financial impacts of COVID-19. We must act now to reduce people’s exposure to air pollution and make improvements to air quality.

Air quality is a problem across many areas of the UK and is certainly not unique to Basildon. In fact, air quality in the borough is generally good (read Basildon Council’s 2020 Air Quality Annual Status Report to find out more).

However, the Basildon Enterprise Corridor is a busy business area and a through-route for many vehicles, with congestion issues worsening the air quality problems caused by vehicle emissions.

Locations on a stretch of the A127 and two areas to the south of it (notably in East Mayne) in Basildon have been identified as exceeding legal limits for nitrogen dioxide, as set by European Air Quality Directive, which assesses exposure at roadside locations.

Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council have been directed by Government to take action and have a legal obligation to make air quality in Basildon compliant in the shortest possible time.

What are we doing about it?

Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council were directed by Government to improve air quality on the A127 as quickly as possible and a new 50mph speed limit was introduced earlier this year to tackle the issue.

They were also directed to carry out further analysis to establish what measures would be needed to bring air quality to within legal levels as soon as possible in East Mayne and protect pedestrians and cyclists, in particular, who are currently exposed to high levels of air pollution.

Strong evidence is needed to demonstrate the likely effectiveness of any potential solution and we spent several months have been gathering and analysing a lot of information to show the expected impacts of the various options that have been considered. This work has been taking place for several months.

In August 2020, the Government, which is funding the project and has been independently verifying all of the work through its Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), advised it was happy for a preferred option to be identified and for us to prepare a business case for the proposed scheme.

In November 2020, we shared our preferred option – the relocation of the shared pedestrian/cyclist crossing route in East Mayne - as part of a public engagement exercise and encouraged residents, businesses and other interested parties to have their say.

Having considered people’s feedback, an outline business case for the scheme has now been approved by both Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council and has been submitted to the Government for approval.

These are our plans for Basildon. For information regarding other areas of Essex, please visit www.essexair.org.

A127 Speed Reduction area map

East Mayne, Basildon

The area of concern in East Mayne, Basildon

Preferred option – Relocation of pedestrian/cyclist crossings in East Mayne

Our preferred option involves relocating the existing pedestrian and cycle route in East Mayne away from the central reservation to reduce people’s exposure to air pollution at the roadside in the worst affected area and remove the requirement for the location to be reportable.

Our technical work has shown this measure, which is subject to Government approval, would result in compliance with legal air quality levels in East Mayne in 2022, while avoiding any disproportionate impact on residents and businesses.

It would also complement wider projects and initiatives to encourage a shift to safer, greener and healthier travel and transport and improve air quality across Basildon.

The central reservation area would be returned to grass and any unnecessary street furniture, such as some of the existing fencing, would be removed. Potential landscaping options are also being considered.

No changes are anticipated to vehicle lanes or access to and from adjoining roads, including Christopher Martin Road.

For more information and a full description of our preferred option, please read our public engagement brochure.

Existing crossings layout

Proposed new crossings layout

Public engagement

To support further development of our proposals, we shared our preferred option with the public and invited them to have their say as part of a public engagement exercise.

Across a four-week period – Friday, 13 November 2020 to Monday, 14 December 2020 – we engaged with the public on our plans to address air quality in East Mayne, Basildon. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to run any face-to-face public engagement events and, instead, focused on digital engagement. This centred on an online survey hosted on the Essex County Council consultation portal, which residents, businesses and visitors to Basildon, as well as any other interested parties, were encouraged to complete.

A brochure complemented the survey to set the scene, provide the background to the project and the subject of air quality, explain the preferred option and outline other efforts to tackle air pollution in Basildon. To ensure the survey and supporting information remained accessible to certain demographics and traditionally hard-to-reach groups, as well as those without internet access or online competency, we made printed engagement brochures available on request and used some traditional communications channels, such as letters, to complement other digital approaches.

In total, we received 164 responses to the survey – all of which were submitted online.

The data collected as part of the survey enabled us to gain a fuller understanding of people’s views on air quality and our proposals to help inform the decision-making processes and our business case for the scheme. It also enabled us to identify potential issues and concerns and to ensure that any feedback about our proposals can be taken into consideration as they are developed further.

A summary of the key findings and how they were taken into account is available via the Essex County Council consultation portal. Further detailed analysis of the responses received is also contained in the public engagement report in the documents section at the bottom of this page.

Questions and Answers

Select a question to reveal/hide the answer:

Air pollution in Basildon

Locations on a stretch of the A127 and two areas to the south of it (notably in East Mayne) in Basildon have been identified as exceeding legal limits for nitrogen dioxide - a harmful gas caused by vehicle emissions.

The Basildon Enterprise Corridor is a busy business area and a through-route for many vehicles, with congestion issues and queuing traffic worsening the air quality problems caused by vehicle emissions.

The UK Government reports to the European Commission on its compliance with the European Air Quality Directive, which assesses exposure at roadside locations. In 2017, the UK’s failure to comply with the directive within agreed timescales prompted the Government to produce a National Air Quality Plan to deal with nitrogen dioxide emissions in the shortest possible timeframe. It identified three roadside locations along the A127 as likely to be non-compliant with the directive for nitrogen dioxide beyond 2020, two in Basildon and one in Rochford.  

Further detailed assessment in 2018 confirmed locations in Rochford to be compliant with the directive and locations in Basildon to be non-compliant, with additional non-compliance identified to the south of the A127 in East Mayne (A132) and Upper Mayne (A176). In order to comply with the directive in the shortest possible time, Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council were directed by Government to develop an Air Quality Management Plan.

Air quality is a problem across many areas of the UK and is certainly not unique to Basildon. In fact, according to local air pollution monitoring, air quality in Basildon is meeting UK Air Quality Objectives - a national system which assesses pollution exposure where people live. Unlike many other places in the UK, there has not been the need to declare any air quality management areas – local areas which consistently exceed Air Quality Objectives.  

However, the UK Government also reports to the European Commission on its compliance with the European Air Quality Directive, which assesses exposure at roadside locations. It is based on this directive that exceedances have been identified in Basildon.

For more information about air quality in Basildon, read Basildon Borough Council’s 2020 Air Quality Annual Status Report.

Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council were directed by Government to improve air quality on the A127 as quickly as possible and a new 50mph speed limit was introduced earlier in 2020 to tackle the issue.  They were also directed to carry out further analysis to establish what measures would be needed to bring air quality to within legal limits in the shortest possible time. Computer modelling confirmed that if no further action was taken then compliance in East Mayne was not likely to occur until 2024 and, therefore, Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council have a legal obligation to make it compliant sooner.

The pandemic initially resulted in a general decrease in traffic, particularly during the first lockdown, however the number of vehicles on our roads has quickly climbed back up close to pre-COVID levels and our roadside monitoring shows air quality in areas of Basildon is still above legal levels.

Engine technology is improving and emissions from vehicles will gradually fall as people buy newer, less polluting vehicles, but this could also be delayed by the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council were directed by Government to improve air quality on the A127 as quickly as possible and a new 50mph speed limit was introduced in early 2020. Further analysis showed that compliance in Upper Mayne would also be achieved in 2021 without further intervention.

However, the work also showed that if no further action was taken then compliance in East Mayne was not be likely to occur until 2024. Therefore, the councils were directed to carry out further analysis to establish what measures would be needed to bring air quality to within legal levels as soon as possible on East Mayne. As a result of that analysis, a preferred option has now been identified.

Preferred option

Our preferred option involves relocating the existing pedestrian and cycle route in East Mayne away from the central reservation to reduce people’s exposure to air pollution at the roadside when using the shared-use footway/cycleway.  

Our technical work has shown this measure would result in compliance with legal air quality levels in East Mayne in 2022, while avoiding any disproportionate impact on residents and businesses.

We have been investigating a series of options and scenarios to see whether they could potentially address the air quality exceedance in East Mayne. These include engineering options, low emission measures and, at the direction of the Government, a charging clean air zone – to act as a benchmark against which all options must be measured.  

We have been collecting and assessing a significant amount of information to ensure we can present the required evidence to Government about the likely impact of any potential schemes. This has included capturing data from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras about traffic movements and some initial engagement with businesses to get a better understanding of their vehicles and operations. This information, together with what we already know about air quality and traffic in the area, has enabled us to use computer models to predict the expected impact of the various measures.

In August 2020, the Government, which is funding the project and has been independently verifying all of the work through its Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), advised it was satisfied there was sufficient evidence for a preferred option to be identified and instructed us to prepare a business case for the scheme.

The proposed scheme, which is subject to Government approval, would reduce people’s exposure to poor air quality by providing a safer alternative route away from the central reservation and would also complement wider initiatives to improve air quality throughout Basildon.  

Our technical work shows that the preferred option would be likely to achieve some improvement to air quality in East Mayne. Crucially, it would reduce people’s exposure to air pollution at the roadside when using the shared-use footway/cycleway in the central reservation.  

We are also proposing active air quality monitoring in the area which would allow traffic signals to be adjusted accordingly to better manage traffic flows and reduce congestion. This would have additional air quality benefits.

Various schemes and initiatives have already been developed to help improve overall air quality in the Basildon area and encourage a shift to cleaner forms of travel and transport, while a number of others are planned.

These include:

A pilot electric scooter hire scheme is also being considered and Emergency Active Travel funding is being pursued for a project that would form the first part of a long-term plan to create an improved cycle link between Wickford and Basildon.

No changes are anticipated to vehicle lanes on East Mayne or access to and from adjoining roads, including Christopher Martin Road.

The central reservation area would be returned to grass and any unnecessary street furniture, such as some of the existing fencing, would be removed. Potential landscaping options are also being considered.

While we acknowledge that our proposals would cause some inconvenience to pedestrians and cyclists, particularly those travelling between the Sainsbury’s store and the Nevendon junction, crucially the scheme would reduce people’s exposure to air pollution in the worst affected section of the central reservation. Various options to relocate the crossings were considered, including two which included pedestrian/cycle crossings on the eastern side of East Mayne, closer to the roundabout to the north, however our technical work concluded these would result in traffic queuing back onto the A127, which would have a negative impact on air quality and would be a road safety risk. These options were therefore discounted. We are continuing to explore other potential ways to improve the proposed route for cyclists and pedestrians and would not hesitate to make improvements to the scheme as long as they are not to the detriment of safety or air quality.

This project is a very difficult balancing act, but doing nothing is not an option and, ultimately, we must address the air quality exceedances as soon as possible, as required by law. We believe our proposals represent the most proportionate way of doing that, while recognising that they will cause some inconvenience.

We recognise our proposals to meet legal air quality levels would cause some inconvenience to cyclists, however, crucially the scheme would reduce people’s exposure to air pollution in the worst affected section of the central reservation.

We are firmly committed to improving cycling and walking infrastructure in Basildon and are in the process of developing the Basildon Borough Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). This will provide a strategic approach to improving conditions for walking and cycling in the borough, identifying preferred routes and core zones for future development and outlining a prioritised programme of infrastructure improvements for future investment.

Cycle facilities along Upper Mayne and Cranes Farm Road were upgraded last year as part of a Defra-funded scheme, linking key commercial and recreational locations. Further route improvements have also been made, connecting residential areas and schools to the west, as far as Laindon link, as part of the Basildon Flagship Cycle Route. We have also recently been awarded Emergency Active Travel funding from the Government for a transformational Safer, Greener, Healthier scheme in Wickford. The proposals are expected to include a series of improvements through residential areas from Nevendon Road, in the south of the town, to the town centre and Wickford Railway Station, including a new cycle corridor. The project is the first part of a long-term plan to create an improved cycle link between Wickford and Basildon, which will eventually enhance the whole cycle and walking network across the Basildon borough.

There are also the ForwardMotion initiative and Stop.Swap.GO! campaign, which are devised to encourage and support people to travel differently.

Our traffic modelling work shows that without any action, delay and congestion is set to worsen in the peak and inter-peak periods by 2022 due to increases in traffic. This, of course, would worsen the air quality problems. In devising our proposed scheme, which removes the need for pedestrians and cyclists to cross at the point of highest air pollution, we considered several configurations of signals. The chosen scheme is considered to provide the best configuration, on balance, with delays on some turning movements offset by improvements in other turning movements. It is recognised that the priority of keeping traffic moving on East Mayne has been balanced with a slight increase in queues on Christopher Martin Road, due to the introduction of a new cyclist/pedestrian crossing. However, traffic queues would be regularly monitored as part of the air quality monitoring plan.

Consequently, there would be regular opportunity to review signal timings and respond to any excessive queuing or delay, which ultimately should further contribute to air quality improvements.

More than 40 other options have been considered to reduce the number of more polluting vehicles using East Mayne and, therefore, resolve the air quality exceedances in the shortest possible time. However, our studies have shown they would not be sufficiently effective, would take longer to implement, be too difficult to evidence or would have a disproportionate impact on residents and businesses.

Among the other options were:

  • Travel demand management - A marketing-led behaviour change campaign to encourage people to switch to cleaner vehicles and use more sustainable modes of travel such as walking, cycling and buses.
  • Commercial vehicle upgrade grants - Working with businesses in the Basildon Enterprise Corridor to upgrade their lorries and vans, which are some of the largest contributors to nitrogen dioxide in the area. Grants could also have been available to incentivise the upgrades.
  • Strategic re-routing - Installing road signage to highlight pollution levels and direct non-compliant lorries using East Mayne as a through-route to use alternative routes
  • Charging clean air zone (CAZ) - The Government directed us to prepare a case for a charging clean air zone to provide a benchmark, against which other options could be compared.

You can have your say by completing our online survey. The survey opened on Monday 16 November and will close on Sunday 13 December.

The survey card-headers are also available in our brochure and can be printed, filled out and posted to the following address (please note the address is case sensitive): FREEPOST ESSEX HIGHWAYS ENGAGEMENT TEAM

Alternatively, you can request a printed copy of the brochure is sent to you by post by emailing airqualityproject@essexhighways.org.

Yes. There will be further opportunity to comment on the proposed scheme as part of the statutory public notice period. This is expected to be some time in Winter 2020/Spring 2021. The notice will be published on our webpage.

Our journey to cleaner travel is continuing and work to progress our preferred option will carry on in the coming months, alongside wider efforts to improve air quality in Basildon and across Essex.

The Government expects us to bring air quality in East Mayne to within legal levels as soon as possible and it is crucial that we now progress the project as fast as we can. The feedback you give us as part of the public engagement will contribute to the case that is made for our proposals and help inform future decision-making processes.

We expect the submission of an outline business case in Winter 2020 and a statutory public notice period in Winter 2020/Spring 2021. We anticipate a final business case would then be submitted in Summer 2021.

We currently expect the scheme to go live in Winter 2021, subject to approvals and other processes. This would ensure compliance with legal air quality limits in East Mayne in 2022.

More information about the project is available in our public engagement brochure (ADD LINK) and on our website at www.essex.gov.uk/airquality.

Charging clean air zone

A charging CAZ is a designated area that vehicle owners are charged for driving within if their vehicle fails to meet certain emission standards. They work on the basis that the charge would encourage a proportion of people to upgrade to cleaner vehicles and deter others with higher emission vehicles from driving in the zone.

The charging CAZ that was used as a benchmark was a class C, meaning that private cars and motorbikes would not have been charged. Affected vehicles would have been required to pay the charge only if they did not comply with the following Euro emissions standards: Diesel – Euro 6 (most new registrations after 1 September 2015), Petrol – Euro 4 (most new registrations after 1 January 2006).  

Based on the charging CAZ we were directed to consider, the CAZ would have been in place in an area south of the A127 between East Mayne and Upper Mayne, including Cranes Farm Road.

The Government directed us to prepare a case for a charging clean air zone to provide a benchmark, against which other options could be compared. The expectation is that any other alternative measure must address the air quality exceedances in a similar or quicker timescale.

Our studies concluded that a charging CAZ would take longer to implement and, therefore, could not result in compliance with legal air quality limits in the shortest possible time.

We know there are also significant concerns about the disproportionate impact a charging CAZ would have on businesses and residents, especially in light of the continued financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We share those concerns, which is another reason we were committed to fully exploring all possible alternatives and are pleased to have now identified an alternative preferred option.

A127 speed limit reduction

Three locations along the A127 route in Basildon Borough and Rochford District were identified by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Pollution Climate Mapping (PCM) model in 2017 as likely to be exceeding national air quality thresholds which is why it is being tackled as a priority area.

We did further testing in April 2018, which found that no exceedances were identified in Rochford District. However, a card of the A127 north of Basildon was identified as exceeding national air quality thresholds and additional exceedances were identified to the south of the A127 (notably in East Mayne).

Reducing speeds from 70mph to 50mph can reduce harmful nitrogen oxide emissions from car exhausts by up to 20 per cent, as well as improving road safety and journey time reliability.

Air quality is influenced by many factors, including number, type and speed of vehicles, meteorology and time of year. COVID-19 and the lockdowns further complicate this because they have led to abnormal (generally lower) traffic flows as fewer journeys are made. This has likely had a much greater impact on air quality than the speed limit scheme this year, so it is difficult to tell what impact the scheme is having until traffic flows return to a consistent, pre-COVID, level.

Vehicles’ engines work more efficiently at about 50mph; vehicles driving below 50mph and above 55mph produce more emissions from their exhausts. While traffic is often slower than 50mph at peak times, having a consistently lower speed limit helps to improve journey time reliability by smoothing the traffic flow, because it reduces the number of times vehicles have to stop and start again. This in turn reduces the time traffic is stationary or moving slowly in queues, and has an air quality benefit as vehicles’ engines emit the most NO2 emissions when they are switched on but not moving or moving slowly (that is why it is so important not to leave your engine running when you are parked).  

Vehicles travelling at 50mph produce up to 20 per cent less nitrogen oxide pollution from their exhausts than vehicles travelling at 70mph. That helps improve overall air quality, regardless of the time of day or what the traffic conditions are.

We are using average speed cameras as they have been proven to be very effective in reducing the speed of vehicles.

What else is being done to improve air quality in Basildon?

Map of areas in Basildon 

Various schemes and initiatives have already been developed to help improve overall air quality in the Basildon area and encourage a shift to safer, greener and healthier travel and transport, while a number of others are still planned.

A127 speed limit reduction

A new 50mph speed limit was introduced on a stretch of the A127 in Basildon earlier this year to improve air quality and road safety. Tests showed that a card h-100 mb-3 of the road between east and west Basildon exceeded national air quality safe limits for nitrogen
dioxide.

The new 50mph limit is in place on both carriageways between the existing 40mph speed limit near the Fortune of War roundabout and approximately 470m east of the Pound Lane (westbound)/Cranfield Park Road (eastbound) junctions.

Vehicles’ engines work more efficiently at about 50mph than 70mph, producing fewer emissions from their exhausts. Reducing speeds from 70mph to 50mph can, therefore, reduce harmful emissions by up to 20 per cent, as well as improving journey time reliability.

The reduction in speed limit from 70mph to 50mph is, therefore, expected to reduce nitrogen dioxide on the A127 to safe levels in 2021 and reduce personal injury collisions on this stretch of the road.

Basildon Integrated Transport Package

A package of transport improvements was developed to support growth and regeneration in Basildon, reduce congestion, encourage increased use of sustainable transport and improve air quality.

The improvements are being completed in three waves, with work currently underway in Basildon town centre to create a sustainable transport hub around the bus and railway stations, including the installation of new cycle parking and real-time bus service information boards, and upgrading of shared crossings to enable future cycleway improvements linking to the Basildon Enterprise Corridor.

Essex Climate Action Commission

An independent cross-party commission on climate change has been set up by Essex County Council and recently discussed how drastic changes to transport in Essex could help reduce the county’s carbon emissions, agreeing a range of recommendations it will put forward to the council.

In addition, it is currently developing a 15-year business plan to achieve ‘generational change’, with the ambition of making Essex County Council one of the most environmentally sound councils in the UK.

This plan will involve setting targets for various environmental aspects, including air quality, over the short, medium and longer term.

Emergency Active Travel bid - Wickford

Essex County Council has been awarded £7.3million of further Emergency Active Travel funding from the Government for five transformational schemes, including one in Wickford.

The proposals build on recent Safer, Greener, Healthier emergency measures and the Wickford project is the first part of a long-term plan to create an improved cycle link between Wickford and Basildon, which will eventually enhance the whole cycle and walking network across the Basildon borough.

The project would involve a series of improvements through residential areas from Nevendon Road, in the south of the town, to Wickford town centre and Wickford Railway Station.

Electric vehicle charging points

Basildon Borough Council received Government funding to install additional electric vehicle charging facilities across Basildon to support the uptake of electric vehicles.

A number of rapid and fast electric vehicle chargers have now been installed in car parks across the borough, including some specifically for use by taxis and private hire vehicles.

Basildon now has more electric vehicle charging points than any other area in Essex and is within the top 40% in the country.

E-scooter trial

Basildon is among the initial areas of the county where Essex County Council has launched a pilot electric scooter hire scheme.

The trial seeks to provide people with a zero carbon, socially distanced alternative to short car journeys, reducing congestion and air pollution.

Spin, a company owned by Ford, is managing the schemes, which have been designed in collaboration with borough and district councils. More information about the trial in Basildon is available on Spin's website.

ForwardMotion

ForwardMotion is a behaviour change initiative designed to encourage people to think differently about the way they travel around south Essex.

It is run by South Essex Active Travel (SEAT) - a collaboration between Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Essex County Council and Thurrock Council – and offers support that makes alternative travel more accessible, including bespoke cycle training,
personalised travel plans, advice and much more.

Cycling

Cycle facilities along Upper Mayne and Cranes Farm Road were upgraded last year as part of a Defra-funded scheme, linking key commercial and recreational locations.

Further route improvements have also been made, connecting residential areas and schools to the west, as far as Laindon link, as part of the Basildon Flagship Cycle Route.

Buses

Government funding was secured to help reduce emissions from buses along the A127 corridor. Bus companies are using the funding to upgrade their vehicles.

Liftshare

Essex County Council has worked closely with Liftshare to develop the Essex Car Share scheme, which operates across Basildon and provides commuters with a car sharing service which helps cut congestion and air pollution, while also saving people money.

A127 junction improvements

Potential junction improvement options on the A127 are being explored, including at the Fortune of War junction. Emerging schemes would seek to have a positive impact on air quality in Basildon by reducing congestion.

What you can do to help

 

We can all play our part in helping reduce air pollution by making small changes to the way we travel, especially for shorter journeys.

You may even have noticed an improvement in air quality during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly during the first lockdown, largely as a result of the reduction in traffic on the roads and increased walking and cycling.

We would like to see those trends continue and have been implementing a number of measures across the county to encourage increased walking and cycling as part of our Safer, Greener, Healthier initiative.

By swapping some journeys to cycling, walking or public transport, we can help improve the air we all breathe.

Walking and cycling not only helps take cars off the road and improve air quality, but also has significant health benefits. Even 30 minutes of walking a day can help to improve your energy levels and mental health, while just a 15-minute cycle ride twice a day would meet the Government’s recommended minimum level of physical activity for adults.

People who cycle are also likely to be less stressed and are more productive. Employers can encourage their staff to hop on a bike through the Government’s Cycle to Work tax incentive scheme.

Could you swap some car journeys to cycling, walking or public transport, especially for shorter trips? Our Stop.Swap.GO! campaign is making getting around Essex by bus, bike or on foot easier and more rewarding than ever before.

If travelling differently isn’t an option, could you consider a hybrid or electric vehicle when next replacing your car? Find out more about the latest Government grants available.

Impacts of air pollution

Health

Both the World Health Organisation and Public Health England recognise poor air quality as the largest known environmental risk to public health. In total, about 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution (Source: ‘Every breath we take – the lifelong impact of air pollution’ - Royal College of Physicians, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016).

In Basildon, almost 6% of all deaths (people aged over 30) each year can be attributed to air pollution, which is slightly higher than the national average, while many more people suffer with various health conditions caused or contributed to by polluted air.

Longer term exposure to air pollution can increase your risk of lung cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. There are also suggestions it can increase the likelihood of you developing Type 2 diabetes and dementia. It is also thought likely that exposure to air pollutants increases the likelihood or severity of COVID-19 infection.

Even short-term exposure to high levels of air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, affect lung function and increase hospital admissions. In the Basildon and Brentwood area, 16,675 people suffer from asthma.

Air pollution, in particular nitrogen dioxide, is damaging to the health of all of us but particularly young children and those with existing heart and lung problems.

There are also links between exposure to high levels of air pollution and low birth weight and reduced lung function, while it can even result in premature birth or pregnancy loss.

Economy

Health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution have a high cost to people who suffer from associated illnesses, our health services and businesses, and are estimated to cost the UK about £20 billion every year (Source: ‘Every breath we take – the lifelong impact of air pollution’ - Royal College of Physicians, and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016).

Air pollution particularly threatens economic growth by impacting upon people of working age. If staff have to take days off work because of air pollution-related illnesses, then businesses and the economy suffer.

It also affects productivity and results in significant costs to the NHS – money which could otherwise be spent on treating other illnesses.

Environment

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

Nitrogen dioxide contributes to the pollution of soil and watercourses, which impacts on animal and plant life, as well as biodiversity in sensitive habitats. Road traffic emissions also contribute to local ozone production, which has health impacts and damages agricultural crops, forests and plants.