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Air Quality

Working to improve air quality in the West Midlands

Poor air quality has significant impact on people’s health and wellbeing. It is also detrimental to the environment. 

This was recognised by Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, when he made air pollution the subject of his annual report in 2022.

Importantly, he recognised that: ‘Everyone is affected by air pollution, and it is everyone’s problem’.

WM-Air researchers at the University of Birmingham estimate that annually in the West Midlands, up to 2300 premature deaths in the region arise from long-term exposure to particulate matter. Therefore, there is an increased focus on addressing emissions of particulate matter and these come from wide range of sources (such as domestic combustion) and not just road transport.

The region’s local authorities are already working hard to improve air quality through Air Quality Action Plans and air quality strategies as required by legislation. However, addressing air quality issues as a region and working in a collaborative way has the potential for significant improvements to air quality that will benefit public health. The WMCA is working alongside local authorities, and other important stakeholders, to understand how we can work together to deliver our regional 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.”

To do this, we have developed:

  1. A Regional Air Quality Framework (see below) that contains 145 options to improve air quality that could be put in place locally and across the region to improve air quality.
  2. A West Midlands Air Quality Implementation Plan (to be published here soon) that looks at the priorities for action from 2024 – 2026. It should be noted that action does not mean full delivery in every case, however starting the process now is essential. This will be the first in a series of implementation plans that draw on the larger Framework to deliver regional change.

Alongside this, the WMCA environment team has worked with our Greener Together Citizens’ Panel  to think about how we should roll the framework measures out across the region, and the things we should consider when developing new actions.

This has resulted in a set of guiding principles, which can be found in the framework itself, but also will soon be available in a special report.

Hear from Andrei and Parry on how being on the Citizens' Panel has shaped their thoughts on air quality. 

In addition to these plans, the WMCA secured funding through a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) air quality grant that will enable:

  • Roll out of a region-wide sensor network to monitor air pollution across the West Midlands, especially PM2.5.
  • A website, currently under construction, which will provide information for people on air pollution across the West Midlands, as well as a portal to display the air quality data from the regional sensor network.
  • Behaviour change and engagement campaigns to support people living in the West Midlands, as well as policymakers, with advice on how to improve air quality.

PM2.5, a form of particulate matter, is made up of little bits of material, with sources including exhaust fumes, the dust from brake pads on cars, smoke from fires, exhaust fumes, or smoking.

Contact us

For more information on any of our air quality work, please contact us below.