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West Midlands Combined Authority Air Quality Framework reference document 2023

Published 13 November 2023
Updated 13 November 2023


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Our vision: The West Midlands will have air quality that is safe for all people, no matter where you live in the region, resulting in significantly improved public health and environmental outcomes.

In 2022, air pollution was the subject of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report. In speaking about this report, Sir Chris Whitty said, ‘Everyone is affected by air pollution, and it is everyone’s problem’. This Air Quality Framework aims to establish what the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), working with its partners, can do to deliver cleaner air across the region. The overall aim will be to reduce absolute and unequal exposure to poor air quality, giving everyone better air to breathe and improving health outcomes.

The ambition developed here is not a strategy, but
a Framework for delivery, supported by a near-term implementation plan. We know what needs to be done, and now have a prioritised list of actions to take forward. Importantly, we are not beginning from a standing start – local authorities and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) have been delivering activity – but we know we need
to accelerate plans to create a healthy environment for
all communities across the region. Our first Framework Implementation Plan has been produced in accordance with this document to summarise which of the Framework ‘options’ are priority measures that will be progressed/ delivered between 2024 and 2026.

Until recently, the biggest challenge for UK government has been in tackling exceedances of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which are primarily associated with and local to transport infrastructure – especially along busy roads with adjacent resident population. Consequently, measures to improve air quality have tended to focus on reducing emissions of and exposure to NO2 pollution within local authority areas. However, with the Environment Act (2021) there is now the additional focus on particulate matter, which has sources beyond transport, and which requires a different approach to address it. This is important for the WMCA as WM-Air researchers estimate that annually in the West Midlands, up to 2,300 premature deaths in the region arise from long-term exposure to particulate matter. This plan covers both NO2 and particulate matter, which goes beyond individual local authority areas, can be most effective as particulate pollution tends to spread further geographically than NO2.

Reflecting the range of approaches that will need to be taken (145 options have been appraised), this Framework has grouped the appraised options into the following categories:

Engagement and behaviour change;

  • Domestic emissions and indoor air quality;
  • Transport;
  • Natural and built environment;
  • Commercial, industrial and agriculture;
  • Public health;
  • Planning, policy, governance, and mechanisms for change;
  • Monitoring and digital;
  • Climate/net zero considerations.

Each of the options has undergone appraisal against the following criteria:

  • Health outcomes, including direct improvement to human health and reduced health inequalities.
  • Spatial impact, including whether a regional approach brings benefit.
  • Alignment with local and national policy.
  • Feasibility of implementation, timescales and cost’?
  • Co-benefits – do the measures have any additional environmental, social or economic benefit?

This enables a clear focus for actions, funding bids, investment and any behaviour change or communication campaigns, as examples.

Whilst this document has been produced by the WMCA, working with its constituent local authorities, it will require a collaborative approach to enable delivery of
air quality benefits for all. This will include local and regional government, but also the commitment of local businesses and communities. Financial investment will
be required to implement, and then sustain, some of the options identified. As much air pollution is both produced and experienced locally and regionally, any emissions reduction (by industry, transport, and housing) as a
result of the implementation of the Framework will have immediate local and regional benefits.

We have begun our road to delivery through a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) funded air quality grant and we look to continue working with our regional partners, local businesses and communities as the Framework is delivered