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Improving air quality

Find out what we are doing to improve air quality in the borough.

Our commitments

We are committed to improving air quality and creating a healthier, fairer environment in Westminster. 

As part of our Fairer Westminster strategy, we have committed to reaching the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for air quality. These guidelines are much more rigorous than the national objectives we are statutorily required to meet.  

We are now working on a new Air Quality Action Plan to meet the WHO guidelines. The WHO guidelines are especially ambitious with regards to particulates; microscopic particles of solid or liquid matter such as dirt, smoke or soot. As a result, we are prioritising reducing particulate emissions as far as possible. 

Our new Air Quality Action Plan will be made up of 5 priorities. 

1. Reducing pollution from buildings

  • Our data shows us commercial buildings are the largest source of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution in Westminster. Reducing this will also support tackling the Climate Emergency as we work towards being a Net Zero City by 2040.  
  • Commercial cooking is also a large source of our pollution, and we will be looking at working with our business community to help reduce encourage a move towards more environmentally friendly and healthier induction hobs. 

2. Reducing pollution from construction and development 

  • We will continue to lead the way on reducing construction and development pollution. Westminster’s Code of Construction Practice is already an ambitious document, but there are regularly new technologies and innovations that can be trialled in this area to further reduce the impact of construction and development on air quality.
  • We will be revising our planning policies to strengthen our environmental requirements for new developments, as well as looking at how electric construction vehicles and generators can help reduce pollution on construction sites.

3. Reducing pollution from transport 

  • Reducing pollution from road transport through encouraging active travel and promoting the 15 minute city is a key priority for us. From continuing to promote School Streets, to lobbying for a Zero Emission Zone across the city, we will continue to encourage everyone to do their bit to reduce their exposure to air pollution and to reduce their own emissions. 

4. Indoor air quality and occupational exposure 

  • We all spend a lot of our time inside our homes, schools, and offices. Reducing indoor air pollution is a brand new priority area for us. We will be looking at new ways to help our residents, schools and businesses improve the quality of their indoor air, starting with an indoor air quality monitoring project which we will be launching later this year. 

5. Involving and empowering our communities and schools

  • We will encourage and support all our communities to help bring about cleaner air for everyone who lives, works and visits Westminster. This includes launching our new air quality data platform, supporting our communities in doing their own monitoring, promoting cleaner air walking routes, and relaunching our Schools’ Clean Air Fund.

Air pollution is not something we can tackle alone. As well as not being contained in our borough or even national boundaries, many of the factors contributing to pollution in Westminster are beyond our control. That’s why we’re committed to working with all levels of government, businesses, residents and everyone else with a stake in the air we breathe.

Sources of pollution

The amount of pollution that the main sectors in Westminster emit are outlined in the table below.

Industrial and commercial is the biggest polluter. This includes things like heating office buildings, gyms and swimming pools.

Nitrogen oxide emissions by sector in Westminster
Sector Tonnes Percent
Domestic 57.6 3.3%
Industrial and commercial 891.1 51.6%
Transport 652.2 37.7%
Construction 126.2 7.3%
Other 1.3 0.1%
Total 1,728.5 100.0%

Improvements to air quality so far  

We’ve been working hard in 2022/23 to improve air quality in Westminster. 

Some of our recent key achievements include: 

  • Increased electric vehicle charging points in Westminster to 2,500
  • Grown our waste, recycling and street cleaning electric fleet from 60 to over 100, as of July 2023
  • Made all School Streets permanent with a commitment to introduce 5 more per year for the next 3 years 
  • Introduced a new e-cargo bike scheme with Beryl
  • Launched a new cargo bike logistics hub 
  • Consulted with the public on new high-quality cycleways  
  • About to launch a new online map giving real time information about air quality across the city, and using government funding to develop a new network of clean air walking routes across the city  
  • We're working with schools with the highest number of car-drop offs to install air quality monitors  
  • We've secured £1m of government funding to work with other central London boroughs to reduce deliveries by road  
  • We're tackling air pollution from wood burning
  • Launched our new online air quality data platform

Published: 18 December 2020

Last updated: 25 July 2023