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Air quality in Colchester

We are obliged  under the Environment Act 1995 to monitor air quality in our borough .

A requirement of the Act was that the UK Government was to prepare an Air Quality Strategy for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Air Quality Strategy was published in January 2000 with a revised version published in 2007.

Within the Air Quality Strategy, national air quality objectives are set out, and local councils are required to review and assess air quality against these objectives.

Like most other Districts in the region which do not have large industrial processes, the main source of local air pollution in Colchester is from motor vehicles. These emit, amongst other things, oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter. Particular problems arise locally where traffic is slow moving through old, narrow streets near the historic centre of the town.

From a health point of view, the most important pollutants are the nitrogen oxides (especially nitrogen dioxide - NO2), and fine particles (especially the fraction which can be deeply inhaled - called PM10 and PM2.5 ).


Launched in March 2016, any Colchester resident as well as those travelling to the borough to work can register at to receive health-related information.  Free updates are available by twitter, text message, voicemail and email.  Free Android and iPhone apps are also available for download. 

Information on air pollution and particulates (at street-scale for NO2, PM10, PM2.5 and ozone) along with UV, grass pollen and temperature (at borough level) are all available for the next three day period.  Residents can choose to receive their air quality alerts on the day of or day before elevated pollution levels are expected.

The service will be particularly useful for anyone with respiratory or heart conditions, enabling them to ensure any medication needed is to hand and to better prepare for any time spent outside.

AirTEXT alerts are based on detailed modelling of local sources of air pollution, European - scale air quality forecasts, local air monitoring sites and national weather forecasts. This ensures that residents can be aware of the impact in Colchester of national or even global occurrences such as particulates from sand storms and volcanic eruptions.     

Monitoring of air pollution

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, on busy roads throughout the borough, are monitored using passive diffusion tubes. In addition, there is an automatic monitoring station measuring  NO2  in Brook Street. A list and maps of Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Colchester and the rest of Essex is available at the Essex Air Consortium website, along with results from monitoring and reports that have been written and submitted to the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  

Emissions from larger petrol stations and many smaller industrial premises in the borough, are regulated by the council under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the regulations made under the Pollution, Prevention and Control Act 1999.

This is achieved by a system of permits which allows the operator to carry out their prescribed processes within tightly agreed standards and to a set of national emission limits specific to each type of industry. These processes are regularly inspected and enforcement action taken where deliberate or persistent failure to comply with the authorisation is found.

Does Colchester have an air quality problem?

Colchester Borough Council has been monitoring air quality for Nitrogen Dioxide, a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels including petrol and diesel for several years. This monitoring has led to the declaration of the following area quality management areas:

Area 1 - Central Corridors - High Street, Head Street, North Hill, Queen Street, St Botolph's Street, St Botolph's Circus, Osborne Street, Magdalen Street, Military Road, Mersea Road, Brook Street, St John's Street and East Street.

Area 2 - East Street and the adjoining lower end of Ipswich Road

Area 3 - Harwich Road/ St Andrew's Avenue junction

Area 4 - Lucy Lane North, Stanway

Follow this link to view the order and maps for more details.

pdf icon Air Quality Management Order 2013 [1Mb]

pdf icon Air Quality Management Order 2013 - Area Map [879kb]

Interactive Air Zone

Why not get the children involved check out the interactive Air Zone site.

Air Zone