Dense smoke

£9m funding for local authorities to tackle air pollution

Local projects to improve air quality across England will get a £7m funding boost this year, the government has confirmed as applications opened for this year’s scheme.

The government’s Air Quality Grant helps councils develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses and communities, as well as to reduce the impact of polluted air on people’s health.

At least £1m of the £9m available this year will be dedicated to projects to improve public awareness in local communities about the risks of air pollution, following a recommendation in the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report after the tragic death of Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013.

These could include projects to inform people about the ways to reduce their exposure to emissions by avoiding pollution hotspots.

Projects that deal with improving air quality, as well as improving knowledge about the health risks, are also strongly encouraged to apply.

Local authorities can also bid for a portion of the fund for a wide range of other projects to improve air quality and create cleaner and healthier environments.

The criteria for this year’s grant period will prioritise three areas:

  • Projects which reduce air pollutant exceedances, especially in those areas that are projected to remain in exceedance of the UK’s legal targets.
  • Projects that will improve knowledge and information about air quality and steps individuals can take to reduce their exposure to air pollution.
  • Projects that include measures to deal with particulate matter, which is the pollutant most harmful to human health.

Since it was established, the Air Quality Grant scheme has awarded almost £70m to a variety of projects, including a digital education package to teach children and parents about the health impacts of particulate matter (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide.

It also includes the development of a community website to share air quality information and raise awareness with local residents and visitors, as well as a project to highlight the air quality issues that surround domestic burning.

Other applicants in previous years have also been awarded funding for projects including training GPs as Air Quality Champions to deliver air quality improvement messages in their surgeries and monitoring PM2.5 levels at schools.

Projects funded by the grant scheme have contributed to the significant improvement in air quality seen in the UK in recent decades.

Since 2010, levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), particles or liquid droplets in the air which present the greatest risk to public health, have reduced by 11%, while emissions of nitrogen oxides have fallen by 32% and are at their lowest level since records began.

Commenting, Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow said:

“Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but still poses enormous health risks, which is why we are boosting our funding to local authorities to help them take action.

“This is part of the government’s wider strategy to tackle air quality.

"Our landmark Environment Bill places a duty on us to set at least two air quality targets by October 2022, including an ambitious, legally binding target to reduce fine particulate matter, the most damaging pollutant to human health.

“We know local authorities are best placed to address the issues they face in their areas.

"We look forward to receiving innovative ideas for ways to reduce emissions, help communities understand how they can limit their exposure to air pollution and promote cleaner, greener alternatives.”

Transport Minister, Rachel Maclean added:

“From schools to local businesses, the Air Quality Grant will help local councils implement measures to clean up our air as we build back greener, reduce our carbon footprint and look ahead to COP26.

"These could include projects to help businesses make the switch to greener transport or help local authorities better monitor pollution from roads.

“The funding announced will help us improve air quality, meet our climate change obligations and support economic growth right across the country.”

Applications for the grant opened on Friday 3 September and will close on Friday 8 October.

Local Authorities in England are invited to apply via Bravo and further details on how to apply are available on the Air Quality Grants GOV.UK page.

PSE will be hosting a Public Sector Decarbonisation event on 9 September. Join us for the full day event by registering here.

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