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Councils have a joint plan for action on air quality

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils have adopted a new joint Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) to improve air quality in the districts over the next four years.

The previous AQAP had been in place for around nine years and was reviewed to ensure that the current pollutant levels are considered and that the right actions to tackle them are in place.

While the majority of areas across both districts have very good local air quality, there are a small number of hotspot areas, Air Quality Management Areas*, that continue to need specific monitoring. The new AQAP will focus on these to address poor local air quality.

The good news is that, in the last five years, most places in the districts have seen a consistent reduction in nitrogen dioxide, a key pollutant primarily linked to emissions from combustion engine vehicles.  This means that some of our Air Quality Management Areas, have improved enough that this status may be removed in due course.

This improvement can be attributed to several factors including:

  • The work of previous Air Quality Action Plans.
  • A change in behaviour with more people working from home.
  • The use of cleaner vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs).

Working with key air quality partners, Oxfordshire County Council and National Highways, the district councils published a draft new plan which was put out to public consultation last summer

Following analysis of the feedback from the consultation, a second version of the plan was produced in August 2023. This was approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in December 2023.

The new plan looks to build on the successful reduction in the volume of nitrogen dioxide. To achieve this, the plan aims to reduce traffic emissions by promoting healthier and cheaper options for short journeys, such as walking and cycling.  Where vehicles are needed the councils will promote the increased use of public transport and low emission vehicles such as EVs.

Councillor Sue Cooper, South Oxfordshire District Council Cabinet Member for the Environment, said: “It’s good news that there has been a consistent reduction in one of the key pollutants (nitrogen dioxide) which is detrimental to the health of some of our vulnerable residents.  We want to continue reducing air pollution with our new Air Quality Action Plan and we hope our residents will support our actions..”

Councillor Mark Coleman, Vale of White Horse District Council Cabinet member for environmental services and waste, said: “The new Air Quality Action Plan identifies those responsible for delivering the actions. Specifically, those that sit with the district councils and those that sit with our key air quality partners, Oxfordshire County Council and National Highways. This is a great example of partnership working, which is essential to improve local air quality.” 

The joint Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) for 2024-2028 was formally adopted at both councils’ licensing committee meetings which took place last week.

Notes to editors

*The current AQMAs are:

Vale – Abingdon, Botley, Marcham

South – Henley, Wallingford, Watlington 

To see the AQAP please visit our air quality management pages (South/Vale). For details of the licensing committee reports please see the relevant pages on our websites  (South/Vale).

Residents can also visit – a new, Defra funded, website created in partnership between Oxford City, Cherwell, West Oxfordshire, South Oxfordshire, Vale of White Horse, and Oxfordshire County Council, which provides up to date air quality guidance and resources for all of Oxfordshire.