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Air quality

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 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.

We are pleased to now be able to share our preferred option – the relocation of the shared pedestrian/cyclist crossing route in East Mayne.

These are our plans for South Essex. For information regarding other areas of Essex, please visit

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 when using the shared-use footway/ cycleway.

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 is also expected to avoid the need for a charging clean air zone.

In addition, it would 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

Having your say

In November and December 2020, we carried out a public engagement exercise to tell people more about the project, share our proposals and give residents and businesses an opportunity to tell us what they think as we continue our journey to cleaner travel in Basildon.

We wanted to hear the thoughts of people who live, visit or work in Basildon about air quality and our preferred option for tackling the exceedances in East Mayne.

Your views are very important to us and this was an opportunity to be involved in helping shape our journey to cleaner travel in Basildon.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued social distancing restrictions, the public engagement was primarily online, however, we also did everything we could to accommodate those without internet access or who prefer to contact us in other ways.

Our online survey is now closed, but you will have another opportunity to have your say during the forthcoming statutory public notice period. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments about the project, please email

Questions and Answers

Select a question to reveal/hide the answer:

Air pollution in Basildon

1. What is the problem? 

2. What is the cause? 

3. How was the problem identified?

4. Is poor air quality an issue across Basildon?

5. Why do we need to do anything?

6. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected air quality?

7. What has been done so far?

Preferred option

1. What is proposed and why?

2. How was the preferred option identified?

3. How would the preferred option help?

4. Would the preferred option improve air quality?

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

6. Would there be any changes to vehicle lanes or access to and from adjoining roads?

7. What would happen to the central reservation area where the previous pedestrian/cycle route was?

8. The proposed new pedestrian/cyclist crossing route is less direct and will take people longer, particularly those travelling between the east side of East Mayne (Sainsbury’s side) and the Nevendon junction. Why could an alternative route not be considered?

9. These proposals could discourage people from cycling. What are you doing to try and encourage increased cycling in Basildon?

10. Won’t the additional cyclist/pedestrian phases on the traffic signals restrict traffic flow and cause increased congestion and air pollution?

11. What other options were considered?

12. How can I have my say on the proposals?

13. Will there be a formal consultation? 

14. What are the next steps?

15. When will the scheme be completed?

16. How can I find out more information?

Charging clean air zone

1. What is a charging clean air zone?

2. Why was a charging clean air zone considered in Basildon?

3. Why has a charging clean air zone been discounted?

A127 speed limit reduction

1. How was this section of the A127 identified as having poor air quality?

2. Why did you introduce a speed limit change? What difference will it make?

3. What difference has the scheme made?

4. The traffic goes slower than 50 mph in peak time so how will reducing the speed limit help?

5. If the pollution is being caused by queuing traffic, why can't the speed limit remain at 70mph at off peak times? 

6. Why are you using average speed cameras to enforce the limit?

What happens next?

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 we received as part of the public engagement in November/December 2020 will contribute to the case that is made for our proposals and help inform future decision-making processes.

The following timeline gives a rough indication of the next steps and approximate dates.

  • Winter 2020 - Identification of a preferred option and submission of an outline business case
  • Winter 2020/Spring 2021 - Statutory public notice period
  • Summer 2021 - Submission of a final business case
  • Winter 2021 - Scheme goes live
  • 2022 - Compliance with legal air quality limits

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 section of the road between east and west Basildon exceeded national air quality safe limits for nitrogen

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 by 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 bid for 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 initial section of the new route 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 six areas of the county where Essex County Council is planning a pilot electric scooter hire scheme.

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

A preferred supplier has been chosen and schemes are being discussed with the local district councils.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.