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Our continuing campaign for cleaner air

To mark Clean Air Day today (Thursday 8 October) South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have launched a new campaign to encourage people to use less polluting means of transport, such as walking and cycling, for local journeys.

Since March many of us have changed where we work and how far we travel.

This has resulted in fewer miles driven, especially at peak times. With less congestion at peak times there has been less air pollution….  considerably less air pollution according the analysis carried out by South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils’ Air Quality team.

*Some of the data showed in these figures has not yet been ratified and could be subject to minor changes.

The above graphs show air pollution figures for March to September in our four monitoring sites in the designated Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)*. The 2019 figures are shown in blue with the corresponding month’s 2020 figures shown in green.

This demonstrates a consistent reduction in pollution of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in our air. NO2 is created by the burning of fuel from our cars and can be the cause a number of health impacts including breathing difficulties, especially for those with existing respiratory conditions such as asthma.

The government’s requests that to help control the pandemic people should work at home, if possible, has reduced the number of people commuting to offices across our districts. For example, according to a recent survey of the councils’ staff, those who responded have saved an average of 110 miles per person per week (by no longer commuting to the office in Milton Park and other council sites).

The councils’ Air Quality team hope that this change in habit for the daily commute might translate into people looking at alternative, pollution free travel methods (i.e.walking or cycling) for local journeys and are hoping to encourage them with a series of new posters (see below).

The Air Quality team are sending the posters to schools and community groups in the districts but they will also be available to download from our dedicated webpage –

Cllr Catherine Webber Vale of White Horse District Council cabinet member for tackling climate change and the environment said: “Today is Clean Air Day when we should take a moment to think about the air we breathe. By switching to cycling and walking for local journeys, where possible, we improve our health and our air quality at the same time.”

Cllr David Rouane South Oxfordshire District Council cabinet member for the environment said: “Last year the councils launched their Turn It Off campaign – asking people to change their driving habits for cleaner air – to turn off their engines if they were stopped in traffic for a minute. Now we are asking them to think if they could turn the engine off altogether and use less polluting means of transport for local journeys.”

Notes to editors

*There are six AQMAs in southern Oxfordshire

South – Henley, Wallingford and Watlington

Vale – Abingdon, Botley and Marcham

The councils monitor the air quality using a mixture of static automatic analysers and diffusion tubes**. Static analysers are fixed next to the roadside, they monitor the air quality and send data analysis every minute to the Oxfordshire Air Quality website.

The councils have four static automatic analysers. They are in

  • Duke Street, Henley
  • High Street, Wallingford
  • Couching Street in Watlington
  • Stert Street in Abingdon

**Diffusion tubes (8cm long plastic tubes that attach to lamp posts)- are widely used for monitoring of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). They give an indication of longer-term annual average NO2 concentrations, can highlight areas of high NO2 concentration and can also be used where installation of an automatic static analyser is not feasible.