Air Quality


Air pollution is now recognised as a serious public health issue, requiring significant and joined up action form a range of services.

Key Terms

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) are identified by the council as localities where UK Government targets for air quality (Air Quality Objectives) are not being met. The area may encompass just one or two streets, or it could be much bigger. The council is subsequently required to put together a plan to improve air quality in that area – a Local Air Quality Action Plan.

Particulate Matter (PM) is a mixture airborne particles of 10 micrometres or smaller (25 times thinner than a human hair). These particles generally cannot be seen be seen due to their small size but a growing body of evidence indicates they may have a negative effect on human health. Particulate Matter is often further divided into particles between 10 and 2.5 micrometres which are referred to as PM10 and particles under 2.5 micrometres referred to as PM2.5.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a gas released when fuels such as diesel, coal, oil and wood are burned. NO2 can have a negative impact upon human health, in particular on the health of people with existing health conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).


  • The main air quality issue in the Wakefield district is the level of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) near too the busiest roads, in town and city centres and other localised hotspots for example busy road junctions.
  • Air quality monitoring results over the last four years show that there is a downward (improving) trend in the concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide in a majority of the ten Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in the Wakefield district. However, monitoring in 2016 showed a levelling or in some instances, increase from previous years.
  • The most significant source of particulate air pollution in the district comes from road vehicles including exhaust emissions from diesel vehicles and also particulate emissions from wear and tear of tyres and brakes etc.
  • Exposure to airborne particulate matter (PM) can have a significant negative impact on human health including premature mortality.

The Population

Ten parts of Wakefield district where air pollution has been identified as a significant problem have been designated as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). These are:

  • M1 Motorway (2006)
  • A1 Trunk Road (2006)
  • Wakefield City (2006)
  • M62 Motorway (2006)
  • Knottingley Town Centre (2008)
  • Pontefract Town Centre (2008)
  • Featherstone Junction (2008)
  • Castleford Town Centre (2008)
  • Ackworth – Barnsley Road (2010)
  • Hemsworth – Cross Hills (2013)

Evidence suggests that the elderly, children and people with existing lung or heart conditions are the most at risk from air pollution.

The Challenges

It is estimated that air pollution, including particulate matter and NO2, may be responsible for as many as 30,000 deaths in the UK each year and have an annual cost to the national economy of more than £50 billion.

4 in every 100 deaths in the Wakefield district in 2015 could be associated to particulate air pollution. This figure has fallen from 6 in every 100 deaths in 2010, a decline that matches the trend for the Yorkshire and Humber Region and England as a whole.

The annual health cost to society of the impacts of particulate matter alone in the UK is estimated to be around £16 billion.

Service Provision

Measures and services put in place to improve the districts air quality include:

Monitoring and Enforcement
Wakefield Council’s Environmental Health Service monitors Air Quality in the Wakefield district and also has a regulatory role to control emissions from domestic and commercial activity.

West Yorkshire Low Emission Strategy 2016-2021
Wakefield Council adopted the West Yorkshire Low Emissions Strategy in December 2016. This strategy was developed in conjunction with the other West Yorkshire local authorities and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), and sets out how the West Yorkshire local authorities will work together to reduce emissions and improve air over the next five years.

Air quality and emissions reduction through the planning process, including use of HIA for planning framework, a review of the West Yorkshire Air Quality and Emissions Planning Guidance and Community Infrastructure Levy to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Road Improvements
The M1, M62 and A1 are significant sources of air pollution in the Wakefield district but, as major trunk roads, are under the control of Highways England rather than Wakefield council. However, each of the major routes has been the subject of significant road improvements and traffic management schemes aimed at reducing congestion and the associated air pollution, these include the implementation of the Smart Motorway on the M1 (J39 – 42) and M62 (J25 – 30) and various junction improvements.

In addition to the above recent Local Authority Road improvement schemes include:

  • Wakefield – Eastern Relief Road (WERR), (Started in 2015 and opened in April 2017)
  • Castleford – Glasshoughton Southern Link Road (starting in 2017 and due for completion in 2018)

Further Information

Wakefield Air Quality Management – Annual Status Report (2017)

West Yorkshire Low Emissions Strategy (2016-2021)