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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.

Around 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to outdoor air pollution - which has been linked to cancer, asthma, stroke and heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and changes linked to dementia.

The health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution cost the UK more than £20 billion every year (source: ‘Every breath we take – the lifelong impact of air pollution’ Royal College of Physicians, and of Paediatrics and Child Health, 2016).

Vehicles' engines work more efficiently at about 50mph and 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.

What are we doing in South Essex?

What is the problem?

The Government’s National Air Quality Plan identified a number of locations along the A127 in Essex were likely to be exceeding air quality thresholds for nitrogen dioxide. 

Further tests found that a section of the A127 between east and west Basildon, and parts of the business area to the south of it (Upper Mayne and East Mayne), have poor air quality that breaks legal limits. 

Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council were issued a Ministerial Directive by the Government to improve the air quality on the A127 as quickly as possible.

What are we doing?

To tackle this issue, Essex County Council and Basildon Borough Council are improving air quality along the A127, to the north of Basildon, by reducing the speed limit from 70mph to 50mph. The new speed limit came into force when sign replacement and camera installation works started in January 2020. 

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. It will be enforced by average speed cameras.

Air quality and traffic modelling indicate that the reduction in speed limit will reduce nitrogen dioxide to safe levels by 2021.

There is also statistically significant evidence that the reduced speed limit with average speed enforcement is likely to result in a reduction in personal injury collisions on this stretch of the A127. If the effects on the existing 50mph section of the A127 can be attributed to the camera system and speed limit, a reduction of about ten slight-injury collisions and five KSI (killed or seriously injured) collisions is expected each year. 

The Government has also instructed us to carry out further analysis to establish what measures would be needed to bring air quality on Upper Mayne and East Mayne to legal levels in the shortest possible time. This work is ongoing.

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

A127 Speed Reduction area map 


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.

Questions and Answers

Select a question to reveal/hide the answer:

Health impacts of air pollution

Why do you need to tackle local roadside air pollution? What’s the issue?

Why the A127?

Is this section of the A127 the only area where air quality is an issue?
How was this section of the A127 identified as having poor air quality?

Speed limit changes

Why are you introducing a speed limit change? What difference will it make?
When will the speed limits be introduced?
How will the speed limit be enforced?
What are you doing about the air quality exceedances to the south of the A127?
In peak hours traffic often travels at less than 50 mph. How will cutting the speed limit to 50 mph help?
If the pollution is being caused by queuing traffic, why can't the speed limit remain at 70mph at off peak times?
Why are you using average speed cameras to enforce the limit?
The traffic goes slower than 50 mph in peak time so how will reducing the speed limit help?
Why can’t we have a variable speed limit and go faster at night?

Changing travel behaviour

Essex County Council, as the Local Highway Authority, has a number of projects to help reduce pollution and encourage people to consider swapping some of their car journeys to cycling, walking or public transport, especially for short trips.

What can I do to help reduce roadside air quality in Essex?
I can’t swap some of my journeys. How can I drive in a more environmentally friendly way?
Will there be a charge to use the A127?

Further Information

Can you improve the Fortune of War junction instead?
Why can't you add more lanes on the A127 or build a new road from Southend to London?
How will local roads cope with the thousands of new homes that need to be built?
Why not ban HGVs during peak times?
Will you be seeking funding for long term improvements to the A127?

What else are the local authorities doing? 


Early Measures Funding

Electric vehicles 

We received funding from Defra to install additional electric charging facilities across Basildon borough and Rochford district to support the uptake of electric vehicles. A number of rapid and fast electric vehicle chargers have now been installed across both areas.

Phase two of the scheme will be delivered by summer 2020 and will inlcude the installation of more public chargers, as well as five specifically for use by taxis and private hire vehicles. Live charging point sites can be found online.


The cycle facilities along Cranes Farm Road in Basildon were upgraded in spring 2019, thanks to funding from Defra.


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. 

Did you know? Car drivers are exposed to twice as much pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist. Leaving your car at home for the day means you’ll be cutting down the amount of pollution you make, reducing the pollution you’re exposed to and getting some exercise too. 

Simple steps you can take now to improve your air quality



Swap a short car journey for a walk instead.

Essex’s beautiful countryside, towns and villages have a great network of footpaths - check out our county’s public rights of way for a  walk in the great outdoors that’s close to home.

Tip: plan your route away from the busiest 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.