Campaigning for action

Your local council is a key player when it comes to cleaning up dirty air - and there are lots of things you can do to influence change.

Some councils have already changed their own fleets of vehicles to run on electricity, and some have created 20mph zones for road safety reasons which can also reduce air pollution by making walking and cycling more attractive. Others are planning a charging Clean Air Zone which will restrict the dirtiest vehicles from entering the most polluted areas.

Before you get started, it's a good idea to sit down and think about a few key questions to help get you off on the right foot. For example:

What’s the air quality situation in your area?

How bad is the air pollution where you live? Is your Local Authority one which the government considers to have illegal levels of air pollution? Are you in an area which should implement a Clean Air Zone, or is required to produce a Local Action Plan? Is there an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in place in your area? What has the council committed to doing already? Do you know if there are any proposals which would make air pollution worse, for example a new superstore, which would generate extra new traffic, or a new road scheme?

Our guidance on What’s the air like near me? [LINK] and What should I be calling for in my area [LINK] will help you think these through.

What do you want to achieve and by when?

Do you want a commitment to a charging Clean Air Zone, improved air pollution monitoring, greater action on idling or something else? What vision do you have for your area (you can get inspiration from examples here)? How are you going to win?

Our Campaign Planning guide is a great place to start.

Who do you need to influence to make this happen?

To be successful you’ll need to work with both elected councillors and council staff, usually referred to officers.  You’ll need to find out which councillors hold positions of responsibility and could be influential - these often include the Leader of the Council, and those who hold portfolios for the environment, health and transport.

On top of that you’ll likely end up working with key council officers responsible for things like air quality, transport and the environment. Building a positive relationship with these officers could be crucial.
See our guide for top tips on working with local elected representatives.

Who’s responsible for tackling air pollution?

Ultimately it’s the government which has responsibility to keep to the EU’s legal limits, but the government has requirements of the Devolved Administrations, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Local Authorities.

In London, the Mayor has responsibilities for tackling air pollution and Transport for London controls many of the major roads in the capital. But the London Boroughs need to also play their part too.

Generally in England, responsibility for air pollution falls to:

  • District councils with a two-tier system e.g. Basildon District Council rather than Essex County Council.

  • Unitary authorities with a single tier system e.g. Sheffield City Council.

Different arrangements and powers exist within the Metro Mayor areas where Mayors chair combined authorities of councils (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester, Tees Valley, West Midlands, West of England – and a Metro Mayor for Sheffield City Region was elected in May 2018, but currently has limited powers and budget).

If you’re within one of these areas please get in touch on so we can share information about any work our Regional Campaign Organiser team may already be doing on air pollution.

Find out more about metro mayors here.

How can you inspire your local community to join you?

Generating lots of support for your campaign can make all the difference to whether you succeed. It’s worth thinking about the different things you can do to raise awareness about air pollution and different ways you can help people take action.

The section on tactics and activities can help with this.

How can you reach out and engage the whole of your community in your campaigning?

Finding allies for your campaign needs to be a key part of your thinking. You’ll need to find the people or groups in your community who want something done about air pollution. Some of them will already know about the problem, but many won’t.
Use our community mapping tool to do this.

Air pollution can often affect the people least responsible for creating it. It’s worth thinking about how you can both reach out to and work with them, because doing so will only strengthen the social justice element of your campaign. It’s also worth remembering that this side of the campaign will require a lot of work – building relationships takes time and effort, especially if it’s with people who you haven’t already worked with. But don’t let that put you off as the rewards for this hard work will benefit both the campaign, and your community immensely.

The section on working with the people most affected by air pollution can help with this.