Local authorities have been urged by health experts to ensure building developers protect local people from air pollution by siting schools and care homes away from areas where pollution is particularly high.

The call was made by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as it published an updated quality standard entitled Air Pollution: Outdoor Air Quality and Health which highlights that authorities should assess planning applications and consider how the effects of traffic-related air pollution may affect local communities.

NICE says developers should show planning authorities that they are actively looking to protect local people from the effects of air pollution when planning big building projects.

The new quality standard also suggests that schools and care homes should not be sited in areas where pollution levels may be high to reduce the impact on vulnerable groups.

In addition, NICE advises that more landscape features could be introduced such as trees and vegetation in open spaces or green roofs where ventilation isn’t restricted. These spaces can also provide safe routes for walking and cycling and encourage people to exercise.

Commenting on the new standard, Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive at NICE, said, “Poor air quality is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, reduced lung function, and admissions to hospital. As a society we need to think long-term and collaboratively to improve air quality across the country. Our guidance can help us to achieve that.”

Stephen Edwards, Director at Living Streets, the charity for everyday walking, said, "Dirty air is currently contributing to 36,000 premature deaths a year in the UK and is having a particularly negative impact on children. NICE's air pollution quality standard is much needed."

Last reviewed 5 March 2019