Agenda item

Air Quality & Climate

To consider the report of the Chief Officer Climate, Energy and Green Spaces which highlights the ongoing monitored improvements in air quality in Leeds and the key areas of work relevant to the alignment between decarbonisation and air pollution. 




The Committee received a report from the Chief Officer Climate, Energy and Green Spaces highlighting the ongoing monitored improvements in air quality in Leeds and the key areas of work relevant to the alignment between decarbonisation and air pollution.


Andy Hickford, Senior Project Manager, Climate, Energy & Green Spaces team presented the report and highlighted the following:

-  Leeds air quality is consistently improving and remains compliant with national air quality standards - historical analysis demonstrates the annual improvements in air quality and shows compliance on both NO2 and PM 2.5. targets.


-  The 2023 Annual Status Report submitted to DEFRA provides the full detail of all data collection points in the city. In Leeds, monitoring is installed where there may be cause for concern and when low levels have been recorded for a period of time, the monitoring is removed and utilised elsewhere.


-  Monthly monitoring in 2023 showed that NO2 levels remained below target last year, except at Bishopgate (the Dark Arches), which is not a residential area. Monitoring at Bishopgate paused whilst Connecting Leeds highways works were carried out, now that monitoring has resumed, the recorded levels are lower providing evidence of the benefits of the Connecting Leeds schemes. Connecting Leeds is important in terms of managing transport emissions as transport accounts for 30% of emissions. The Strategy has clear targets to increase bus use, encourage active travel choices and decrease the number of car journeys.


-  There are links between air quality and the aim for net zero, but equally there are differences between ‘greenhouse gasses’ and air pollution and as such measures should be considered with both local air quality and global decarbonisation outcomes in mind:

·  NO2 tends to be local pollutants – emissions are close to the source i.e. transport emissions are kerbside.

·  PM2.5 tends to have a greater/wider source i.e. industry, however there has broadly been a reduction in PN2.5 since 1990.


-  Domestic pollution – This is a new area of research but there is growing concern about domestic internal pollution. In homes there is exposure to dust, dust mites and bacteria etc but heating and cooking methods also bring exposure.

·  Cooking - Some research on cooking methods has shown a stark difference between the impact of electric oven cooking and gas oven cooking - pollution doubles in homes using gas cooking. Careful consideration should be given to how this pollution is publicised.

·  Heating – The cleanest forms of heating are electric heating, heat source pumps and gas fired boiler. Solid fuel heating is the worst polluter and poses the most risk to health, again the challenge is how to publicise this information. Additionally, although wood burning can be seen as sustainable as each tree felled for fuel can be replaced with new planting, over the long term it is not sustainable as the significant number of trees needed cannot be replenished to meet demand.


-  De-carbonisation and pollution links – The issues which cause the climate emergency may not be the same as those affecting health. Consideration should be given to both the links between air quality and decarbonisation and the works needed to address them to ensure the measures to address one issue do not have a negative consequence on another issue.


During discussions, the Committee considered the following issues:


NO2 measurements - Typically air pollution levels are higher in winter and lower in summer and are impacted by different seasonal factors including weather conditions or an increase in traffic. The data showing peaks recorded at Bishopgate and International Pool locations in March were influenced by high levels of Saharan dust. With regard to any risk of displacement of issues away from Bishopgate location, the Committee heard that any highways programme of works looks at air quality and displacement issues, fundamentally schemes are designed to manage congestion locally and meet the Connecting Leeds targets which include decarbonisation targets. Measures can be conditioned on developments/works to further mitigate issues such as the installation of EV charging. Data for 2023 will be included in the 2024 Annual Status Report, but once available could be shared with the Committee.


Cooking – It was noted that some community traditions prefer gas and burning flame cooking to electric ovens. The Committee supported a suggestion to further consider this and how to communicate the health benefits of electric ovens at a future WG.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) – This related to people who had a strong reaction to things found in the home such as solvents, particulates etc. It was suggested that MCS could fall within the remit of the Consumer Protection agency. As indoor pollution is a relatively new area of research, little was known about the role of a Local Authority in relation to MCS.


Wood burning – In response to comments that Councillors were increasingly dealing with neighbour complaints regarding wood burning it was reported that most of Leeds was within a Smoke Controlled Area designation with an approved list of materials for burning. Concerns over materials being burned could be reported to the Environmental Health Team - the first step in taking action will be education. It was noted that the “Clean Air Night” held in January had focussed on wood burning. Additionally, work would be done to ensure the reporting contact details are accessible.


Air Quality monitoring in outer wards – In response to a comment regarding the A65, it was reported that monitoring was undertaken between the Horsforth roundabout and Guiseley. The more monitoring data collected, the better, however the cost of traditional monitoring units was at least £10k. Partnership working with the University is reviewing the accuracy of cheaper units and comparing the results with existing monitoring units – if these are favourable, the use of cheaper units could be extended.



a)  To note the report outlining the ongoing work on improving air quality.

b)  To note the reference to the Annual Status Report 2023 and the forthcoming update report to Executive Board in March 2024.


Supporting documents: