Air Quality

Over the last few decades, air quality in the UK has improved. This is due to:

  • regulating emissions from industrial processes
  • tightening of emissions and fuel standards for road vehicles
  • controlling smoke from domestic premises

However, air pollution still harms human health and the environment. On average, it is currently estimated to reduce life expectancy by 8 months. 

The UK Air Quality Strategy commits local authorities to achieving several air quality objectives. 

The Environment Act 1995 requires local authorities to periodically review and assess air quality in their areas. This is to decide whether national air quality objectives (as set by the UK Air Quality Strategy) are being met.

Air Pollution Forecasts

You may wish to know the current air quality index and the forecast for the next few days in order to adjust your activities accordingly, especially if you have heart or lung related health conditions. The air quality forecast can be found on Defra’s UK-Air website. Pollution forecasts are updated daily on the UK-Air homepage, available via email bulletin and via their Twitter account (@DefraUKAir).

Monitoring and reporting

Local councils have to regularly assess or monitor air quality. This is to help identify any areas that are high in pollutants.

An identified area is called an Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA). An action plan is put in place to try and reduce the pollution in the area.

Cross Street, Sudbury – Air Quality Management Area (AQMA)

Babergh District Council has designated part of Cross Street in Sudbury as an AQMA. This is because nitrogen dioxide levels are above the annual average air quality objective.

We have produced an Air Quality Action Plan which addresses a specific air quality problem on certain parts of Cross Street. 

The Action Plan has been produced in partnership with Suffolk County Council's transport department and other relevant agencies.  It has been approved by the government’s air quality experts.

The Action Plan was produced following extensive studies of the area, the reports for which can be viewed below:


Switching off engines when parked ('anti-idling') is a simple way to improve air quality. Idling often occurs near schools, which can damage children’s health.

Simple ways to improve air quality

There are many things that you can personally do to help improve air quality and reduce air pollution.  These include:

  1. Use your car less.  Try to walk, cycle or use public transport. Cars are more polluting over short journeys, so aim to reduce these too. 
  2. Reduce emissions from your car by ensuring it is regularly serviced and well maintained. Only carry the weight you need and drive in a gentle, steady way.
  3. Consider purchasing an electric vehicle.
  4. If buying a traditional fuel vehicle, consider the most fuel-efficient petrol vehicle. Use cleaner alternative fuels where possible.
  5. Car share to reduce emissions and save money. Visit Suffolk Car Share's website
  6. Avoid having bonfires. If you do have a fire, only burn dry garden waste. Avoid burning on days that already have high pollution levels.
  7. Avoid burning solid fuel. If you do burn solid fuel, make sure the appliance is well maintained and fuel is clean and dry.

This video explains a little more about air quality and the steps you can take to improve it:


Smoke control areas

There are no designated smoke control areas in the Babergh or Mid Suffolk districts. However, this does not mean that a chimney should be allowed to smoke - we receive many complaints from residents who are affected by a neighbour's smoking chimney.

The following information provides further advice about what actions can be taken for common problems.

Burning Solid Fuel

The Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 1 May 2021. They state that wood sold in quantities under 2m3 by the majority of domestic fuel suppliers will be required to be certified to show that the moisture content is 20% or less and be labelled with the ‘Ready to Burn’ logo, along with the name of the person who obtained the certificate and the number of the certificate issued. 

Suffolk County Council Trading Standards are the body enforcing the Regulations. They have advised that businesses and members of the public can contact them if they require advice regarding the sale of domestic fuel and wood used for burning. Trading Standards can be contacted via their reporting website using the online enquiry form or by calling 0808 223 1133.

Read about best practice when using an open fire or wood burning stove