Improving air quality for BwD

Council investing in positive infrastructure change to improve air quality.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is investing in positive infrastructure change to improve air quality for our borough.

Evidence shows Air Quality Management Zones reduce Emergency Hospital Admissions. New research (in NW Local Authority areas) shows that Air Quality Management Areas now play a major role in reducing emergency hospital admissions for respiratory disease.

BwD has a strong track record in leading public health/environmental health/planning interventions to reduce risks from poor Air Quality through AQMAs. This research confirms one of the routes through which LA investment in action on ‘wider health determinants’ reduces NHS demand.


In total, 108 intervention neighbourhoods and 540 control neighbourhoods were analysed over the period 2005–2017, giving a total sample size of 8424 neighbourhood-years. Emergency hospitalisations for respiratory conditions decreased in the intervention neighbourhoods by 158 per 100,000 per year [95% CI 90 to 227] after an AQMA was declared relative to the control neighbourhoods. There was a larger decrease in hospitalisation rates following the declaration of an AQMA in more compared to less income deprived neighbourhoods.

Blackburn with Darwen’s Director of Public Health and Wellbeing, Prof Dominic Harrison said:

“Our results suggest the LAQM system has contributed to a reduction in emergency hospitalisations for respiratory conditions, and may represent an effective strategy to reduce inequalities in health. These findings highlight the importance of measuring the success of air quality policies not just in terms of air pollution but also in terms of population health

“The Government’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) have acknowledged that the Council is doing good work. In Defra’s appraisal of our 2021 annual air quality status report they acknowledge the Councils ‘…proactive and dedicated approach to improving air quality across the area’. Defra’s feedback on our 2020 report was also positive, ‘The council are commended on their third year of compliance with the air quality objectives for NO2 across their monitoring network and are encouraged to continue to implement their air quality strategy to ensure continued compliance’. We’ve been able to revoke 4 of our 8 Air Quality Management Areas, and it is quite likely that we’ll be able to revoke more in the near future.”

Impact of local air quality management policies on emergency hospitalisations for respiratory conditions in the North West Coast region of England: a longitudinal controlled ecological study | International Journal for Equity in Health | Full Text

Positive interventions have been implemented by various Council teams in pursuit of better air quality.

A new link road at the Blackamoor is under construction. It will remove through traffic from one previously busy arm of the junction at the heart of the Blackamoor AQMA. And work on major improvements to the road layout between Blackburn Royal Hospital and Guide are underway which will reduce congestion.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Public Health, Lancashire County Council and other partners have continued to promote active travel as a means of reducing road traffic and improving health outcomes. The COVID 19 pandemic had a significant impact on initiatives like events and workshops that relied on face-to-face interaction, but progress has been made.

  • 200 participants took part in cycling events and taster sessions
  • 1,198 people attended led and guided walks
  • Improvements were made to National Cycle Route 6 and there is more cycle track created
  • New bikes given to Blackburn College and BwD Council got electric bikes to hire to employees
  • Four businesses and schools were helped with their cycling facilities
  • The ExploreBwD interactive walking app launched

Actions to Improve Air Quality

The Council is promoting public transport and active travel, (including a campaign to reduce engine idling outside schools) as they have the potential to make a big long term contribution to air quality, and active travel is also great for better for health and wellbeing. Initiatives include:

  • Health Walks
  • Bike maintenance
  • Adult cycle training
  • Led rides
  • Bike hire
  • Weekly Ride the Park events
  • Car sharing
  • Travel planning
  • Cycling and walking apps
  • Engine idling education


Accompanying investment in infrastructure (to make sustainable choice more appealing and accessible to all road users):

  • The Pennine Reach project improved bus services on specific routes (£40 million)
  • Manchester / Clitheroe train line improvements (£20 million) increasing line capacity
  • The new A678/A679 junction at Furthergate, which re-routed traffic away from an AQMA and dramatically improved air quality for residents
  • New intelligent traffic lights systems and junction modifications at several AQMAs
  • More public electric vehicle charging points are available. The Council has 19 public charging bays in nine Blackburn and Darwen locations. And there are charging points elsewhere, such as at local petrol stations and M65 Services
  • With households likely to want to charge at home, planning permissions for new dwellings and commercial developments are routinely subject to conditions requiring the installation electric vehicle charging points
  • The 26km Weavers Wheel cycle route was completed and extra ‘spurs’ since added
  • New quality bus shelters on routes 481/22

And the above measures are being implemented in conjunction with national initiatives and market driven changes. Significantly, older road vehicles are being replaced by less-polluting models as the public and businesses upgrade their vehicles.


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