Colchester air quality sees significant improvement

PUBLISHED: 11 January 2024

Steps taken by Colchester City Council have resulted in further improvements to the City’s air quality in key areas, according to the 2023 Air Quality Annual Status Report.

In 2012, four Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) were established where pollution exceeded or risked exceeding national guidelines. The 2018 report, approved by DEFRA, showed substantial reductions in pollutant concentrations in the St Andrew's Avenue and Harwich Road AQMA, leading to its removal.

The latest report now reveals that, thanks to the council's ongoing efforts, two further AQMAs – East Street and Ipswich Road, and Lucy Lane North, Stanway – can be lifted due to improved air quality. Additionally, the remaining AQMA can be reduced to encompass only non-compliant areas: Brook Street, Osborne Street, St Johns Street, and Mersea Road. This area previously included several other streets in the city centre.

Colchester City Council recognises the crucial role of air quality in the health and well-being of its residents. Beyond implementing its own action plan, it has developed and supported various projects and initiatives for local air quality improvement, including:
  • 2012: 'Love your car' campaign
  • 2015: Clean Vehicle Technology Fund retrofitted 10 commercial buses with pollution-reducing technology. Further funding in 2017 retrofitted 32 more buses in collaboration with other councils.
  • 2016: Adopted a Low Emission Strategy
  • 2018: Developed the community-led CAReless Pollution campaign to reduce engine idling and raise awareness
  • 2019: Roadside signage study and traffic light countdown feasibility study
  • 2020: Secured funding for a fleet of electric cargo bikes for businesses
  • 2020: Launched Phase 2 of CAReless Pollution, setting up shared transport schemes including an electric car club
  • 2021: Introduced an e-Cargo bike concierge service for deliveries
  • 2022: CAReless Pollution phase 3 integrated walking and cycling into school programs, developed an air quality e-learning module for businesses, launched the Cycle Colchester website and map, and offered a short-term e-Bike/e-Cargo bike loan scheme for residents.
  • 2023: Submitted a bid to purchase a truck-mounted electric road sweeper to replace two smaller diesel ones
Cllr Andrea Luxford-Vaughan, Portfolio Holder for Planning, Environment and Sustainability, said: “Nearly 1 in 20 deaths in Colchester are linked in some way to air quality causing respiratory problems such as lung disease. We want to ensure our residents can live healthy lives, and the significant reduction in the number of AQMAs is very encouraging.

“This latest report demonstrates our commitment to tackling poor air quality. Addressing the climate emergency and promoting sustainability through air quality improvements are strategic priorities for the council.

“Improved air quality has numerous health benefits, particularly for vulnerable groups like children, the elderly, and those with respiratory conditions. That is why we are committed to continuing our efforts and exploring new ways to combat air pollution.”

The council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, pledging to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. Subsequently, a Climate Emergency Action Plan was developed in 2020, outlining key actions for sustainability and carbon emission reduction through services and partnerships.

The latest air quality figures can be read here.

Page last reviewed: 11 January 2024


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