Clean Air for Maidstone
The council is committed to improving the quality of the air we that breathe in Maidstone and is taking the lead in implementing a variety of projects to achieve this goal. Our Low Emission Strategy sets out in detail all of the things we are doing to improve air quality and reduce emissions as a whole.
Air pollution is the contamination of the air by noxious gases and minute particles of solid and liquid matter (particulates) in concentrations that are harmful to health. The major sources of air pollution are car, bus and lorry engines, power and heat generation, industrial processes, and the burning of solid waste.
Where we monitor a level of pollution that is higher than the national objective (target) levels, the Environmental Protection Act 1990 says that we have to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). In Maidstone, there are a number of areas where the annual mean objective for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has been exceeded and therefore an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared. Our AQMA can be seen here.
When a council declares an AQMA it then has to develop an action plan setting out how it will try to improve air quality. The council has gone further than it has to by adopting not just an action plan but a Low Emissions Strategy which covers how the council will minimise its own emissions as well.
The council also has to send an annual report to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) telling them what the latest air quality levels are and what progress we have made in our action plan. You can see our latest annual reports below and more historic ones on the Kent Air website:
Please note this section is under construction
National Clean Air Day 2020
National Clean Air Day for 2020 is on 8 October 2020, while unfortunately we cannot hold the sort of event this year that we would like to we are still keen to mark the day and to encourage everyone to take part. We can do this by deciding to leave the car at home and choosing to walk or cycle to school or work that day, maybe even work from home. We would love it if you decided having done it once to do it as often as you can.
We are also working with the schools in our Clean Air for Schools Scheme to re-launch our competition that was cut short last year which asks our schools to design and run their own campaign to encourage walking to school and also to encourage parents to switch of their engines when waiting to pick up and drop off from school. Our schools have already been provided with banners and portable air quality screening devices to look at the differences in air quality around the school, on different routes to and from school and at pick up and drop off times compared with the middle of the day.
The Clean Air Day website at the link above has loads of excellent information and resources that can be used freely by individuals or organisations and we encourage everyone to look at and use them for any activities that you might be doing.
We will add more information and examples of what people have been doing for Clean Air Day as we get them.
Importance of Air Quality
Poor air quality is known to be harmful to both short term and long term health as it can affect the respiratory system so it affects how well people breathe It has also been linked with a lot of other health problems such as heart disease and even lower IQ. Some people are more at risk than others from poor air quality such as young children, the elderly and people who have heart or respiratory problems such as asthma.
On days when there are high levels of air pollution some people might find that their eyes get sore, others might find they cough more or even that breathing is uncomfortable.
When pollution levels are high you should stop or reduce physical activity near busy roads where pollution is highest, choose a different route to walk to school or work away from busy roads and use your inhaler more often if you need to.
Sign up to Kent Air forecast email alerts to get free email alerts for when air pollution is predicted to be high.
How and where do we measure air quality?
We measure air quality using diffusion tubes which are small plastic tubes that we change every month and send to be analysed, there are over 60 of these around the Maidstone Borough. We also use continuous monitoring stations that measure air quality all of the time very accurately. We have one of these in Upper Stone Street and one in Detling to measure the background levels away from any pollution. You can see information from the tubes and the stations on the Kent Air website however please remember that this is raw data which needs to be ratified before it should be used. The fully ratified data for each year is in our annual reports.
The level of pollution in the atmosphere is rated using a nationally agreed index system (The Daily Air Quality Index).
What is the council doing about air quality?
The work we are doing is mainly in delivering the actions that are in the Low Emissions Strategy.
We hope that this will inspire people to protect their own health as well as to do simple things to reduce air pollution.
Some of the projects the Environmental Protection Team have been working most on recently are:
Clean Air for Schools
For more information visit our Clean Air for Schools page.
Electric Bus Trials
Retrofitting 17 buses with equipment to reduce their emissions by up to 80% in partnership with bus companies, Kent County Council and Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council.
Anti Idling Campaign
PLEASE NOTE THIS SECTION IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION
DO NOT BE IDLE SWITCH OFF YOUR ENGINE
Did you know that every minute that a car is left running when stationary it gives out enough pollution to fill 150 balloons. That is why we are asking everyone to switch of their engines if they are going to be stationary for more than a minute.
We officially launched our anti idling campaign on Clean Air Day in June 2019 when we visited Senacre Wood Primary School with the Mayor and local councillors. We presented them with the banner that they had designed to encourage parents to switch of engines when waiting at pick up and drop off time outside the school.
Since then officers have been visiting more schools giving assemblies to promote the anti idling message to teachers and pupils linking in with our clean air for schools project. You can see full details of the Clean Air for Schools project here.
We are also looking for suitable places to put up either banners designed by schools or signs that ask people not to leave to their engines running when they don't need to particularly outside schools. We are hoping that these will start going up in the new year.
As part of the campaign we are also looking out for events that we can come along to promote the anti idling message and hope see you there.
There are several myths about the dangers of switching of engines, some of them are:
Starting and stopping my engine frequently will cause more pollution than just letting it run.
Actually, turning off an engine and then restarting after a minute will cause less pollution than letting it run and also uses less fuel.
But I need to keep my battery fully charged, so I have to keep the engine running!
Modern car batteries need less engine running time to stay charged
If it’s cold outside I need to keep my engine running for it to stay warm.
Your engine will stay warm for 30-60 minutes after switching the engine off.
If I’m parked on a yellow line, keeping my engine running means I won’t get a fine.
Traffic wardens can fine you if you are parked somewhere you shouldn’t be, whether your engine is running or not
But surely it’s better to idle because stopping and starting will wear out the engine? This is no longer a problem with modern engines.
But, but, but... No ifs, No buts, No idling!
What can you do to improve air quality?
We need everyone to play a part if we're going to make enough of a difference to reduce air pollution to below the target levels. There are some simple things everyone can do:
- Can you walk or cycle on shorter journeys instead of driving?
- Can you take public transport?
- Can you car share with someone else?
- Remember to turn off your engines when parked at school or waiting for someone
- If you are a teacher or parent, encourage your school join our Clean Air for Schools Scheme
- If you an employer can you be flexible with regular home working to reduce trips in to work or with start and finish times to reduce the number of commuters at rush hour?
- If you are a business like a shop try to close your doors to keep in heat or cool air, which will also save you money
- Make sure your home is well insulated to prevent heat loss, this will also save money on heating bills
- When you change your car, could you think about buying a less polluting one? For example, if you drive a diesel, could you drive a petrol car instead, or better still, a hybrid or electric vehicle?
Kent & Medway Air Quality Partnership
We're working closely with other local authorities and Kent County Council as part of the Kent and Medway Air Quality Partnership (KAMAQP) to develop the best practice in tackling air pollution in Kent. We try to work on joint projects where we can to improve air quality across the county. You can find out more about the partnership at Kent Air.