Air quality

On this page you will find key information on the following:

What is air quality?

Air quality is used to describe how polluted or clean the air we breathe is. When air quality is poor, pollutants in the air may be hazardous to people, particularly those with lung or heart conditions.

Air pollution is now the largest environmental risk for early deaths, responsible for more than 6 million premature deaths in the UK each year. This means that managing and preventing air pollution is one of our top priorities, to ensure a safer and pollution free borough.

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 to improve air quality

Wigan Council are committed to reducing harmful pollutants and improving air quality within the borough. Our responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring levels of outdoor pollutants considered harmful to health.
  • Designating Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) 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 and devising strategies to combat future air pollution issues
  • Improving internal practices to reduce Wigan Council's contribution to air pollution
  • Undertaking actions to reduce traffic, increase cycling, increase walking and develop alternative travel solutions
  • Working closely with partner organisations and other local authorities to improve air quality across Greater Manchester.

How is air quality monitored?

Diffusion tubes

  • Environmental Health at Wigan Council monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions via NO2 passive diffusion tubes.
  • These tubes are collected regularly and sent to a lab for analysis.
  • The results are compiled, and an annual report is generated.
  • We read the annual averages for NO2 as this gives a better picture of air pollution over the year.

Air quality monitoring station

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

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.

What you can do to improve air quality

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).

What schools can do to improve air quality

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.

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.

Greater Manchester (GM) Clean Air Plan

GM is working with government to deliver a new Clean Air Plan by July 2022. The first phase of the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone will no longer go ahead on 30th May 2022. But £120m in government funding to help affected people upgrade to compliant vehicles will remain to support the implementation of a new Plan.

© Wigan Council