Air quality

This page gives you information on the air quality management and pollution control.

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Measuring air quality determines how clean the air is. As the local authority, we have a statutory duty to assess and review the air quality in Northumberland.

Since December 1997 each local authority in the UK has had a statutory duty to review the air quality in their area under section 82 of The Environment Act 1995.
This requires local authorities to review, assess and report on key air pollutants in their area and determine whether or not air quality objectives are likely to be achieved.
This involves measuring air pollution and trying to predict how it will change in the next few years. The aim of the review is to make sure that the national air quality objectives will be achieved in each local authority and, therefore, throughout the UK. These objectives have been put in place to protect people's health and the environment.

For further information, please contact us.

Please see the latest 2022 air quality Annual Status Report (ASR) or for earlier versions see the "Useful air quality documents" section below.
In Northumberland, the air quality is generally good but it is impacted by:
  • Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) from road traffic near to main roads
  • Particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) from road traffic near to main roads
  • Naturally occurring Ozone near the sea and in the hills of Northumberland
At present, most local authorities are required to report the air quality in their area to the DEFRA. These air quality reports are also intended to inform the residents of Northumberland as to the situation.
There are a number of point sources of emissions to air and these generally tend to be sites or installations which are permitted under The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2016.
Measuring air quality determines how clean the air is. As the local authority, we have a statutory duty to assess and review the air quality in Northumberland.

This includes submitting an annual report to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the air quality, and assessing particular atmospheric pollutants.
Local air quality affects everyone, but you might be particularly concerned if you feel your location is impacted by a particular pollution source or if you are a developer who has to consider air quality as part of a planning application.
Northumberland’s air quality is generally good but we continuously monitor roads with heavy traffic. We also monitor some industrial sources although many are regulated by environmental permitting – either by ourselves or the Environment Agency.

In terms of road traffic pollution, there is a fairly obvious connection between road traffic flows and the levels of roadside pollutants. However, for a location to trigger any form of investigation there also needs to be relevant receptors (usually the façade of a residential property).
The DfT reports Cowpen Road to have an Average Annual Daily Flow (AADF) in excess of 17,000 vehicles (1.2 per cent HGV and 0.7 per cent buses) – this is one of the busiest roads in Northumberland with relevant receptors as close as five metres from the carriageway. The national air quality objectives are consistently met at this location for nitrogen dioxide and particulates. In some respects, this is a benchmark location and indicates that for this traffic flow the air quality objectives for these pollutants are met.
Road traffic data for Northumberland is available at:

Road traffic statistics - Local authority: Northumberland (
Northumberland continuously measures air quality at two main locations; Cowpen Road and Blyth town centre. Both these stations measure particulates and the Cowpen Road station at present, also measures nitrogen dioxide.
The present particulate levels in Blyth and Cowpen Road can be seen here:
Use the map to navigate to Northumberland and there are two instruments displayed at Blyth (TNO3313) and Cowpen (TNO3314).
Nitrogen dioxide is also assessed by passive diffusion tubes located at a number of locations across the county. These provide an indicative monthly measure of nitrogen dioxide and are used as an early warning system to alert us as to whether more investigation is required in an area.
The limits which local authorities must not exceed are set in British legislation and are based upon scientific advice on lifetime exposure to certain pollutants in the air.
The limits are set in law in The Air Quality Standards Regulations 2010:
Most airborne pollutants are measured by weight in a cubic metre and typically these weights are in microgrammes (µg) per cubic metre (m³).
In summary, the limits for the main pollutants are:
Pollutant Objective Measued As
Nitrogen Dioxide 200 µg /m³ not to exceed more than 18 times per year 1 Hour Mean
Nitrogen Dioxide 40 µg /m³ Annual Mean
Particulates (PM10) 50 µg /m³ not to exceed more than 35 times per year 24 Hour Mean
Particulates (PM10) 40 µg /m³ Annual Mean
Particulates (PM2.5)* 25 µg /m³ Annual Mean
* At present there is no statutory requirement for local authorities to measure or report PM2.5 in England.

The full set of air quality objectives can be viewed at:
If a local authority finds any location where the objectives are not likely to be achieved, it must declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). This area could be just one or two streets, or it could be much bigger. The local authority is then required to produce a plan to improve the air quality - a Local Air Quality Action Plan.
At present, Northumberland has no Air Quality Management Areas. An AQMA in Blyth town centre was declared for particulates (PM10) by the former Blyth Valley Borough Council in December 2004 (Air Quality Management Area No. 1 Order 221204). This was revoked in June 2012 due to a lack of supporting air quality measurements.
At present, Northumberland has no air quality action plans due to the main air pollutant objective levels being comfortably met.
In some circumstances, you will need to apply for approval of a chimney height.
Get in touch with the council if you have any pollution issues you think we can assist with.

For more information, please contact us here.