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Air Quality in the UK

Information

The UK Air Information Resource provides comprehensive information on national air quality.

To find out about air quality in your area, visit the Local Air Quality Management website.

Your local authority can also provide you with local air quality information. In the alternative, you can call free the Local Air Quality Management helpdesk on freephone 0800 0327953 or email them on laqmhelpdesk@uk.bureauveritas.com.

Legal requirements

Two European Directives set outdoor air pollution limits: Directive 2004/107/EC and the Air Quality Framework Directive 2008/50/EC. Different sets of air quality regulations implement those standards in the UK.

A number of UK cities including London, Manchester and Glasgow are currently failing to meet relevant standards for nitrogen dioxide. This is largely due to pollution from road traffic. Defra predicts that those standards will not be met until 2020, or as late as 2025 in Greater London.

The pressure group Client Earth has taken the government to court over the failures.

  • In April 2015, the Supreme Court declared that the UK was in breach of Article 13 of the Air Quality Framework Directive because of nitrogen dioxide limit failures. It ordered the government by 31 December 2015 to prepare new air quality plans that meet the requirements of Article 23 of the Directive.
  • The government duly prepared an Air Quality Plan, but in November 2016 the High Court declared that the plan fell short of the requirements of the Directive.

The European Commission is also taking action against the government for its failure to comply with the Directive. This could result in the UK being fined until the standards are met.

Supreme Court judgment in the Client Earth case, April 2015

High Court judgment in the second Client Earth case, November 2016

How will leaving the EU change things?

Environmental laws that come from Europe will continue to apply for the time being. Find out more on our Brexit FAQs page.

Legislation

Directive 2004/107/EC

The Air Quality Framework Directive 2008/50/EC

The Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010

The Air Quality Standards (Wales) Regulations 2010

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