Defra awards £2m funding to tackle air pollution

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced £2 million of grants to help local authorities tackle nitrogen dioxide air pollution in their regions.

Funding has been given to 36 local authorities for 42 projects across the UK to investigate the possible implementation of low emission zones (LEZs) and to raise awareness about air pollution in the community.

Pupils inspecting lichen to measure air pollution as part of the Cleaner Air 4 Schools scheme - Defra has awarded funding to several London council's to roll out the scheme in local schools

Pupils inspecting lichen to measure air pollution as part of the Cleaner Air 4 Schools scheme – Defra has awarded funding to several London council’s in order to roll out the scheme in schools (Photo: London Sustainability Exchange)

Among the biggest recipients of funding were Birmingham city council, which was given £150,000 for the ‘continuation of emission strategies and low emission zones feasibility work in West Midlands’, and Mid Devon district council, which received £150,000 towards its low emissions strategies project.

Bradford metropolitan district council also received £150,000 towards low emissions strategies and zones in West Yorkshire.

St Albans district council, meanwhile, had two separate bids accepted – £50,000 towards traffic emissions modelling and £25,800 to help fund a freight management plan.

Cleaner Air 4 Schools scheme

A number of borough councils in London – including Croydon, Haringey, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlet and Westminster – have each received £21,429 funding for the Cleaner Air 4 Schools project, which aims to increase awareness of air pollution issues amongst parents, teachers, pupils and school governors.

Through the scheme, which is coordinated by charity London Sustainability Exchange, Air Quality Champion Teams – made up of parents, pupils, governors and teachers – are set up in schools. These teams are given guidance on using equipment to measure pollution levels, such as diffusion tubes and ghost wipes, as well as educational and marketing resources to promote air quality awareness.

A spokesman for Croydon borough council said: “The council is committed to both improving air quality and raising people’s awareness of how this is something that can affect them personally. By focusing messages about air quality into schools and giving teachers the resources to provide practical demonstrations of the problems caused by air pollution we will ensure that the next generation takes the subject seriously. Our aim is to see people growing up with an understanding of how they each have a responsibility to choose a lifestyle that preserves and protects the environment for everyone.”

Defra said an emphasis was placed on projects that could secure additional funding from other sources, so as to strengthen the project outcomes and ensure cost-effectiveness.

Local authorities which have received grants will need to provide Defra with a progress report by autumn 2013 so that each project and its cost effectiveness can be monitored.

Environment minister, Lord de Mauley, said: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent years; however, we need to keep striving to improve the air we breathe. This £2 million air quality grant will help local communities take matters into their own hands. Without this money, many innovative projects would never see the light of day.”

He added: “In previous years, similar grants have been used very creatively to address air pollution. This is exactly the type of action that should be encouraged and I’m looking forward to reviewing the success of the projects this time next year.”

Defra’s air quality grant programme, which operates under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003, has awarded more than £50 million in funding to support regional air quality work in the UK in the 15 years since it started.

A full list of recipients of the £2 million of grants is available on the Defra website.

Projects in the planned second round of grants for local authorities have yet to be assessed by Defra, but the department says an announcement is due to be made soon.