“Our first aim has always been to raise awareness of the issue locally. So we began with a photo stunt by a busy road, with us all kitted out in gas masks.

We set up ‘Healthy Air Leicester and Leicestershire’ as an alliance of campaign groups. We were supported by a local respiratory medicine professor who wrote a statement of support.

We then challenged one of our members to travel on as many buses as possible in a day to raise awareness of public transport. It caught the interest of the media and he was interviewed by local radio. At the same time, we responded to local policy consultations and attended council meetings to raise our concerns about air pollution.

We wrote our own Healthy Air Manifesto for Leicester and launched it by laying 250 daffodils in a public square, to represent the number of people who die prematurely every year from air pollution in Leicester.

Since we started, air pollution seems to be in the news a lot more regularly and I'd like to think we’ve helped to raise people's awareness, but I think national awareness has also increased in the last three years.

The City Council's new Air Quality Action Plan was better than we expected, so I’d like to feel that all our actions helped to push them in the right direction. The group is growing – at first it wasn't very big at all.

A lot of the time it was just me and a chap called Steve planning things and other people joining in occasionally. Now there are four of us co-ordinating the campaign and we have a much bigger mailing list.

Recently we’ve continued trying to raise awareness, most recently by putting gas masks on local statues and having a candle-lit vigil outside a council meeting.”

Libby Harris

Birmingham Friends of the Earth:

“Being known as the “motor city” it is no surprise that air pollution from traffic is a big problem in Birmingham. So in 2015 we launched a campaign called Let’s Get Moving which asked Birmingham City Council to invest in active transport (walking and cycling).

We called on the Council to invest £10 for every citizen per year on active transport over 10 years. This would allow for the development of a better cycle lane infrastructure and pedestrian-only zones. 

We worked hard to increase awareness about air pollution among the general public by doing stunts, hosting a comedy gig and by partnering with local primary schools to measure air pollution around the city. 
We also gained support from community and faith organisations across the city. 2000 people signed our petition which we handed over to Birmingham City Council.

Raising awareness about air pollution (and the fact that active transport saves people money, has great health benefits as well as being emission free) was key to the success of the campaign. The funds we raised during the campaign were used to install a bicycle pump outside New Street station.”


Pete Abel

Manchester Friends of the Earth and Healthy Air Greater Manchester:

“It’s estimated that nearly 2000 people die prematurely each year in Greater Manchester from air pollution. We don’t (yet) have figures for how many children are damaged for the rest of their lives by going to schools or nurseries located near pollution hot spots. In Greater Manchester 70% of this air pollution comes from traffic. Manchester Friends of the Earth has campaigned for more sustainable transport options and better cycle networks for over 10 years. See www.loveyourbike.org

We co-ordinated a group called the Clean Air Now coalition during a campaign called Transport Innovation Fun, where we were pushing for a congestion charge in Central Manchester.

Some of the things we did included:

  • Running a small citizen science experiment using air monitoring tubes.
  • Organising open meetings on air quality
  • Using the Freedom of Information Act to obtain air pollution data from all 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester
  • Lobbying the 600+ GM council candidates during local elections in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
  • Responding to the Greater Manchester Low Emissions Strategy and Air Quality Action Plan consultation and encouraging people to respond via an online action.
  • Responding to the Greater Manchester Transport 2040 Vision [1] and Transport 2040 Strategy consultations.
  • Giving a presentation to the Manchester City Council Neighbourhood and Environment Scrutiny Committee which has now set up a ‘Task and Finish’ group to look at what actions are needed to tackle the air pollution challenge in Manchester.

There has been a lot of interest from people in Manchester - with many people asking how they can monitor air quality in their own areas, their routes to school or local streets. One of our local MPs has started an air quality campaign with local schools in her constituency and we will be meeting with her to discuss how we can work together. Lots of interest and lots to do!

We’re now gearing up to make air quality one of the key issues in the Greater Manchester Mayoral elections in May 2017.”

[1] http://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk/election-survey-2016-local-parties/