Wakefield air quality: Nitrous oxide levels fell by up to a quarter in 2020 after year of lockdowns

Lockdowns and fewer car journeys led to a significant improvement in air quality across the Wakefield district in 2020.

Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 12:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 12:04 pm

Council officers report that nitrous oxide concentration levels fell "between 10 and 25 per cent" across the year.

At the start of the first lockdown, in March and April 2020, the levels were down by as much as 40 per cent as the roads were largely left unused.

Vehicles are the biggest cause of pollution, with pockets of Wakefield city centre still suffering from poor air quality.

Less traffic on the roads during periods of lockdown contributed to a decline in pollution.

Speaking at a climate change scrutiny meeting on Monday, environmental protection officer Roger Newman said the fall in nitrous oxide levels was "an improvement".

But he added: "It was a very atypical year.

"We saw a reduction in the levels of pollution, but it was an artificially good year.

"We can't really base any decisions on it, or draw too many conclusions from it."

Councils are legally bound to monitor air quality and to try and meet certain standards set by the government.

The meeting was told that pollution nationally has declined from a peak "between 2009 and 2011" as lower-emission vehicles have replaced older cars.

Mr Newman said that despite the decline, the council would not just "sit tight, do nothing and hope everything will be OK."

He told the committee: "We're compliant (with government standards) virtually everywhere apart from a small number of areas in Wakefield city centre, which are still concerning.

"There is no safe lower limit for air pollution. I think we have a responsibility to our communities to keep working to drive down air pollution and improve air quality as much as we can."

Local Democracy Reporting Service