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Real time air quality monitoring now live

Residents can now monitor Chelmsford’s air quality in real-time. The newly launched dashboard on the Love Your Chelmsford website comes with an interactive map that provides visitors with current air quality measurements across Chelmsford.  

Air Quality Monitoring Station

What is air quality? 

Air quality is the term used to describe the level of pollution in the air we breathe. “Good” air quality indicates low levels of pollutants. 

Poor air quality is hazardous to people and can contribute to short and long term health problems such as asthma, stroke and lung cancer. Poor air quality is also damaging to ecosystems and habitats. 

Monitoring and managing air quality is the council’s responsibility. Every year the council compiles and submits an Annual Status Report to Defra. These reports can be found on the Essex Air website. 

How air quality is monitored  

Air quality is commonly monitored by measuring the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air. NO2 is a gas produced by burning of fossil fuels and can be dangerous to humans and the environment.  

A low-cost and effective way to measure the concentration of NO2 is by using diffusion tubes. They are small plastic tubes coated with a chemical that absorbs NO2. Analysing the change in the chemical tell us how much NO2 was in the air during the monitoring period. 

Air Quality Dashboard 

Chelmsford has four air quality monitoring stations and forty diffusion tube sites. The air quality monitoring stations also measure particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) and Ozone.

The locations of the monitoring stations and diffusion tubes are marked on the interactive map in red and blue. You can click on a monitoring site to get measurements of pollutants in micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3). Automatic analyser readings are updated hourly, and diffusion tubes are updated monthly.

Air Quality Management Areas 

The air quality in Chelmsford is good in general, but the goal is to maintain an average of 40 μg/m3 annually to meet the Air Quality Objectives. Areas where the annual average of NO2 exceed 40 μg/m3 will be declared as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA). 

Air Quality Management Areas Purple

There are two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in Chelmsford. The first is located near the Army & Navy junction and the second, along a short stretch of the A414 in Danbury. These are marked in purple on the map. 

airTEXT air pollution forecasts 

The airTEXT air pollution forecast provides the current forecast air pollution level for Chelmsford. The airTEXT service will send out an alert to subscribers if the level has been forecast to be Medium, High, or Very High. You can subscribe to airTEXT for free at https://www.airtext.info/signup 

Air quality strategy 

Improving air quality is a top priority for Chelmsford City Council, as outlined in Our Chelmsford Our Plan. The plan sets out to ensure that the council’s existing operations and activities and the development and growth in Chelmsford are as sustainable as possible. This is complimented by the council’s Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plan, focusing on fifteen key areas which include improving air quality. 

At June’s Chelmsford City Council Cabinet meeting, a set of actions to monitor and improve air quality in Chelmsford was approved, including: 

  • A sustainable approach to planning policies that integrates sustainable designs into new developments and infrastructure. 
  • Improving current cycling and walking routes and developing new ones. 
  • Upgrading the council’s vehicles to use the latest low-emission technology. 
  • Planting more trees and woodland across Chelmsford. Since 2019, the council has planted more than 47,000 trees. This is a step closer to the council’s goal of planting 175,000 trees in the next decade. 

"I’m pleased that the Air Quality Strategy is now under way and we’re being open and transparent with data we’re collecting. This proves that the council is committed to improve air quality in Chelmsford and we are taking proactive steps to work with residents, community organisations and businesses to achieve our objectives. The goal is to make Chelmsford a greener, fairer and more connected place for everyone, whether they’re visiting, living or working here."

Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford

Learn more 

There are some small changes you can make to reduce pollution and improve air quality in your area. You can opt for sustainable travel like walking, cycling and using public transport instead of driving. 

Domestic burning such as the use firepits and wood-burning stoves can also contribute to air pollution. Learn how to reduce your domestic emissions here on the Love Your Chelmsford website

You can find out more about the council’s Air Quality Strategy and read the Annual Status report via the council webpage.

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Charlotte Maltby
Charlotte Maltby

Charlotte writes about the environment, parks, recycling, business, planning, public realm and democratic services.