Call for clarity on DEFRA plan to withhold air quality funding

UK Houses of Parliament

The Environmental Industries Commission’s Air Quality Taskforce has called for greater clarity on the future of the Air Quality Grant scheme following the news on 17 April that DEFRA will withhold local council grants for air quality improvement projects.

After being notified about their successful Local Air Quality Grant scheme applications only two months ago, the decision from DEFRA means that several cash-strapped local authorities may halt their progress on improving air quality in their areas until funding is provided.

EIC said its Air Quality Taskforce had written to the Government requesting clarification on why this funding is being withheld after local authorities have spent time and public money to go through the application process, and for reassurance on 2024 funding as forward-thinking local authorities may already be preparing for new applications.

This is the first time that this funding has been allocated and then withheld since the scheme began 27 years ago. The Taskforce has therefore also asked for reassurance on the reliability of funding for other valuable air quality schemes, such as the NO2 Programme for which £883 million has been allocated.

Responding to the withholding of funding, Sarah Horrocks, Chair of EIC’s Air Quality Taskforce and Head of Air Quality and Emissions at AtkinsRéalis, said:

“Pots of funding such as those from DEFRA’s Air Quality Grant scheme are crucial for the delivery of improvements to public health through targeted and innovative air quality projects tailored to local needs by local authorities.

EIC’s Air Quality Taskforce, which aims to explore the ways in which technology and innovation can help society tackle dangerous air pollution, wants to ensure that local leaders have access to all the resources they need to develop and implement measures which improve public health outcomes for people living in their areas.

Comprised of technical specialists, dedicated professionals, and cutting-edge innovations, the environmental services sector and EIC members have the knowledge and expertise to advise, guide, and facilitate the delivery of green growth within our economy whilst improving air quality.”