Reduction in nitrogen dioxide will see pollution status dropped in key Bury St Edmunds area

Part of the reason for the reduction in nitrogen dioxide has been attributed to changes in car manufacturing including greater production and ownership of electric vehicles which do not produce any exhaust emissions.

A successful and sustained reduction in nitrogen dioxide levels in part of Bury St Edmunds is set to see its status as an air pollution hotspot lifted soon.

West Suffolk Council has a statutory duty under the Environment Act 1995 to monitor air pollution and to take action where pollutants exceed nationally set levels.

Back in 2017, levels of nitrogen dioxide along part of Sicklesmere Road, in Bury St Edmunds, were recorded at an annual average mean of 44.7 micrograms per cublic metre (40 µg/m3) against a national threshold of 40 µg/m3.

That saw the area designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and a subsequent action plan was developed to try to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels. This included greater delivery of electric vehicle recharging infrastructure and partnership work to raise awareness of the health impact of pollution caused by vehicle idling.

Now the monitoring, which is carried out at three areas on Sicklesmere Road, has shown nitrogen dioxide levels have fallen from 39.2 µg/m3 in 2018 down to 29.8 µg/m3 in 2023.

Part of the reason for the reduction has been attributed to changes in car manufacturing including greater production and ownership of electric vehicles which do not produce any exhaust emissions.

West Suffolk Council has been working for a number of years to access national funding to improve electric vehicle charging infrastructure including in Bury St Edmunds town centre. And that has coincided with a 692 per cent increase in EV ownership across West Suffolk between 2018 and 2023 (source Local area data: Electric vehicles and charging points (

According to ZapMap figures for March this year show there are now over a million fully electric cars on UK roads, an increase of more than 1,000 per cent on five years ago.

Once monitoring has shown pollutants are consistently below the national threshold, for three years, councils are normally required by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to lift AQMAs.

The reason the AQMA has been in place for longer in Sicklesmere Road is because the council recognised the pandemic had impacted on traffic levels and pollution.

Although the council has monitored and recorded pollution levels throughout, it will not be factoring the figures for 2020 and 2021 into its intention to revoke the AQMA. Monitoring since the pandemic has now confirmed that levels remain consistently below the threshold and are continuing to reduce.

Now West Suffolk is writing to residents in the AQMA and other statutory stakeholders to inform them of its intent to revoke the AQMA. That in turn would mean it would no longer show on searches as a polluted area for example when people are buying and selling a property in the area.

Gerald Kelly, cabinet member for Governance, Regulatory and Environment at West Suffolk Council, said: “We have seen a successful and sustained reduction in air pollution at this area, but it does not mean that monitoring there will stop. We remain committed to monitoring and reducing pollution in Bury St Edmunds and throughout West Suffolk for the benefit of residents and their health.

“We are continuing to work with partners to boost the availability of both domestic and publicly available EV chargers as well as grant support for businesses.

“Alongside this our work in partnership with schools and community groups around anti-idling is designed to educate and encourage motorists not to leave their engines running while parked, particular outside places such as schools where long term exposure to harmful toxic fumes can cause asthma in children, stunt their lung growth, and impact on their health for the rest of their lives.”

To find out more about the council’s work monitoring and tackling air pollution visit Air quality ( and for more on electric vehicles and chargers visit Electric vehicles (EV) (

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