Birmingham agrees to hand over air quality data to Defra

Birmingham city council is conforming with Defra requests to submit air quality and pollution information after previously refusing to do so, reports Steve Eminton.

Birmingham city council is no longer refusing to report to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs over the air quality level in the city and is handing over the appropriate information, the authority has confirmed to AirQualityNews.

The surprise revelation that Birmingham had refused to report to central government on local air quality came this week when Defra released documents surrounding London air quality to the capital’s leading clean air campaigner Simon Birkett.

Birmingham city council: the local authority refused to release air quality information to Defra

The documents show that the government had to use its “powers of direction” prior to 2009 to get air quality information from just one local authority, Birmingham, because the city declined any submission.

The precise date of the government’s action to enforce Birmingham to report on air quality is not given, but the Defra document was written by senior air quality official Robert Vaughan in January 2009 for Lord Hunt, the then air quality minister. Birmingham’s non-compliances with the government’s request is likely to have been between 2005 and 2009 when legislation requiring councils to submit information was in place.

But, a spokesman for Birmingham city council told AirQualityNews yesterday (May 3 2012) that the authority could not explain why it had refused to hand over the details because the people involved “were no longer with the council”.

Birmingham has faced criticism in the past over what appeared to be a low level of action over air quality in the city.


With a population of about 1 million covering an area of some 103 square miles, the conurbation’s central location within the UK renders it a transport hub, with a strong local road network and three heavily trafficked motorways which converge on the city.

In 2003, the whole of the City of Birmingham was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for NO2 and PM10. The 2006 Action Plan concluded that the Air Quality Objectives for NO2 and PM10 were ‘unlikely to be achieved’ by 2005. It attributed the main source of these pollutants to be from motor vehicles.

The direction by Defra to the city council to hand over information came at a time when there was much discussion of low emission zones. In 2007 the Department identified a low emission zone as having “great potential to reduce exceedences of statutory Air Quality Limits” and encouraged replication in Birmingham.

Birmingham and West Midlands

In September 2011 Defra published an Air Quality Plan for the achievement of EU air quality limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in West Midlands (UK0035) – available here (link opens as a pdf). And, Birmingham produced a new air quality strategy in 2011. The strategy was agreed in July 2011, a spokesman for the city council told AirQualityNews although on the city council’s website it appears still to have consultation status - Birmingham air quality strategy 2011.






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