Air quality

Poor air quality is one of the key challenges facing local authorities today and can affect all areas of our lives, posing the greatest risk to our health and surrounding environment.

Wigan Council is committed to maintaining good standards of air quality across the borough by working collaboratively with partner organisations to mitigate any issues that may impact on the borough’s air quality - see our air quality commitment policy.

What we do

We're committed to reducing harmful pollutants and improving air quality within the borough. Our responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring levels of outdoor pollutants considered harmful to health. This is part of our obligation to review air quality under the Local Air Quality review and assessment process
  • Designating Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) to target actions to reduce air pollution
  • Providing advice and guidance to residents on the use of approved appliances and smoke control areas
  • Inspecting business emissions under the Environmental Permitting regime
  • Liaising with developers where air pollution may arise from new developments
  • Working across all areas of the council to reduce Wigan Council’s impact on air quality
  • Undertaking a range of actions to work towards our key priorities of reducing traffic, increasing efficiency, and improving fleet
  • Working with partner organisations and other local authorities to improve air quality across Greater Manchester.

How is air quality monitored?

Diffusion tubes

Environmental Health monitors nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions via NO2 passive diffusion tubes located across the borough. These tubes offer an indicator of air quality, providing a good picture of nitrogen dioxide levels across the borough.

Air quality monitoring station

Wigan have two automatic monitoring stations. These analysers run continuously, recording real time concentrations of pollutants.

The first analyser is located at the Deanery High School in Wigan town centre, an urban location away from roads or other pollution sources. It measures nitrogen dioxide, particles and ozone. The second is in Leigh town centre and is situated on the roadside. It measures nitrogen dioxide and particles.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)

Local air quality is reviewed each year in the Annual Status Report (external link) and assessed to determine if health-based air quality objectives are being achieved.

If these objectives are not achieved, then the Local Authority must designate an AQMA and put in an action plan to reduce pollutants to acceptable levels and achieve compliance with national objectives.

In May 2016, Greater Manchester declared an AQMA covering the 10 districts including Wigan. Long term trends show that there have been improvements in air quality, however some areas remain above the annual mean air quality objective for nitrogen dioxide.

Greater Manchester Clean Air Action Plan

Air pollution does not respect geographic boundaries. Wigan are therefore committed to working with the 9 other Greater Manchester local authorities and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) (external link), to secure improvements in air quality through the Greater Manchester action plan (2016-2021).

The Clean Air Plan aims to deliver compliance with legal limits of nitrogen dioxide in the shortest time possible.

What can I do?

We can all make small changes to help clean up our air and protect ourselves.

Reducing and avoiding air pollution

  • Change the way you travel - by walking, cycling, or taking the bus or train, you’ll cut down the amount of pollution you make, reduce your exposure to air pollution and get some exercise too
  • Choose quieter streets to walk on - taking a side street can cut your exposure to air pollution (remember to stay safe at night and keep to well lit areas)
  • Walk on the inside of the pavement away from the kerb - air pollution can vary, even over small distances
  • Park away from schools and walk the rest of the way. This can help reduce pollution where children gather - children are more vulnerable to the effects of air quality than most adults
  • Try and save energy in your home. Don’t leave appliances on stand-by and turn off lights when you are not in the room
  • If you do have an open fire or wood burning stove, read this practical guide on using wood burning stoves or open fires efficiently to reduce the environmental and health impacts (external link)
  • Use energy efficient appliances, insulate your home, and regularly service your boiler. You can now apply for a green homes grant of up to £10,000 to make improvements (external link).


Our cars are one of the main sources of pollution. Here are some simple tips to help you reduce your fuel consumption, save money and improve air quality:

  • Don’t leave your engine idling, switch off your engine when stationary - car drivers are exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist
  • Avoid short car trips, could you walk or cycle instead?
  • Slow down and drive smoothly. Driving at higher speeds and more aggressively causes tyre wear and higher fuel consumption. Keeping a greater distance between you and the car in front can help with this as it should reduce your need to brake
  • Don’t over rev your engine, particularly when starting the vehicle
  • Don’t sit and wait for the car to warm up, drive off as soon as possible
  • Check your tyre pressure - under inflated tyres will increase your fuel bills and increase vehicle emissions
  • Use Air conditioning sparingly - A/C is a drain on the car’s engine.
  • If you're buying a new car, explore an electric, hybrid or LPG model (to save on road tax too). Petrol cars are less polluting than diesel models
  • Electric cars - most mainstream car manufacturers offer an electric vehicle (EV) model. Increasing battery capacities to lengthen the driving range and support faster charging rates make EVs more attractive options. If you're considering purchasing a electric vehicle in the future, check out the government EV grant schemes (external link). Wigan council are working to expand the network of EV charging points, with 32 available in Wigan - see a list of EV charge points in Wigan (external link).

To find out more check out the eco-driving guide produced by Energy Saving Trust (external link).


School children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they're still developing. Due to their size, they're often also closer to the source of the emissions.

One of the most common places for cars to be left idling is outside school gates, at drop off and pick up times. This means that school children are being exposed to unnecessary air pollution.

Anti-idling winning poster Clean Air Greater Manchester (external link) have created a toolkit to help schools take action against air pollution. The toolkit contains curriculum-based lesson plans and resources to help schools raise awareness and get teachers, parents and pupils involved in improving air quality.

Anti-idling school poster competition

In November 2019, young people across Wigan were invited to take part in a competition to design an anti-idling poster. The winning poster (pictured right) was designed by Millie Boon from Highfield St Matthews Primary School.

All the finalists received a goody bag and the winning design was presented to Millie as signage and published through media channels. Anti-idling signage has so far been erected outside 11 schools and other locations across the borough.


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