Air pollution in Norwich back to pre-coronavirus lockdown levels

Queues are forming in Norwich. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

The reduction in traffic in Norwich due to lockdown led to improved air quality - for a while. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The improvement in Norwich's air quality during coronavirus lockdown was short-lived, according to a new report.

A new study, published by Centre for Cities, showed air quality improvement in the first half of the year across the UK, triggered by the first national lockdown in March.

With people told to stay at home and limit trips, levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Norwich, recorded at DEFRA's monitoring unit at Lakenfields, fell from close to 15 micrograms per cubic metre to 8 micrograms per cubic metre.

However, by October, it had returned to pre-lockdown levels, although it dipped again when the second national lockdown came in.

Many motorists want more action taken to cut vehicle pollution.

Pollution in Norwich has gone back to pre-lockdown levels, the Centre for Cities report says - Credit: PA

But levels of another pollutant, particles known as PM2.5, went up by 15pc during the lockdown period to 12 micrograms per cubic metre.

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According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs such increases in eastern and southern England at that time may have been due to anticyclonic weather, with winds bringing PM2.5 from the rest of Europe into the UK.

The authors of the report say it shows increased post-pandemic home working will not keep air pollution down - as people still use cars for leisure and to go shopping.

Green councillor Jamie Osborn measure pollution in Westwick Street. Pic: Jamie Osborn.

Green city councillor Jamie Osborn. - Credit: Jamie Osborn

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Green city councillor Jamie Osborn said: "Local councils have to do much more to support walking and cycling and clean public transport such as electric buses, in a coordinated manner."

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport and chairman of the transforming cities joint committee, said government money would help.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport.

Martin Wilby, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for highways and infrastructure. - Credit: Simon Parkin

He said: "Recently secured investment from the Transforming Cities Fund means £32m will be spent on infrastructure changes over the next few years, aiming to relieve congestion and improve public transport, cycling and walking routes.

"Smarter traffic signalling technology, reducing levels of cross-city through traffic and working with First Bus on their investment in cleaner engines are all measures within the programme designed to improve air quality.

"A lot has already been achieved and we remain committed to working with our district and business partners to cut air pollution as much as possible.”

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