Eastleigh Air Quality

With all the talk of extending the airport, I thought it curious to start looking at Eastleigh’s Air Quality out of pure intrigue as there doesn’t immediately appear to be much talk of it.

I struggle to understand how the Airport extension can be justified when local Air Quality is already poor in some areas, and permitting more air traffic would absolutely increase more from both road, and air pushing it even more more into the wrong direction. This is about air quality though, not the runway extension.

Eastleigh Borough Council have an air quality action plan, which I’m sure some actions are already overdue (does anyone have an update on them?)

Eastleigh Borough Council has declared 4 AQMA areas. An AQMA means that, within that area, the levels of a certain pollutant are above those required by legislation for health reasons. Any declaration, in summary, means that further monitoring of that pollutant has to be undertaken and a plan has to be put in place to improve the air quality within it.

At the lower edge of the DEFRA scale (which Eastleigh looks to frequently hit), this usually means that “Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, who experience symptoms , should consider reducing strenuous physical activity, particularly outdoors.”

How is this not being taken more seriously?! This means some local people may be suffering more from conditions due to the bad air quality locally. I feel sure these people do not know that they are suffering due to this invisible bad air? Or am I reading this all wrong?

I note in the above air action plan one of the action points is “Work with Southampton Airport to minimise the impact of their operations on air quality”, I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean “work with the airport to double air travel and pollutants”, so I’m not sure how this can be reconciled with the runway extension.

Air Quality Management Areas are declared below, in case you want to do your own research to add to the conversation. :slight_smile:

In 2005 the Eastleigh area covered by AQMA is below:

The raw data from the stations setup to record the data from AQMA areas can be found below:

Here’s some interesting data from the last 5 years, you can see things improving, then COVID!

Pollutant Objective 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
PM10 (not reference equiv. 40 ug/m3 as an annual mean 25 24 26 24 22
PM10 (not reference equiv.) 50 ug/m3 as a 24 hour mean, not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 8 9 5 3 0
PM10 (not reference equiv.) Capture Rate (%) 97 95 90 97 8
Nitrogen Dioxide 200 ug/m3 as a 1 hour mean, not to be exceeded more than 18 times a year 4 0 0 0 0
Nitrogen Dioxide 40 ug/m3 as an annual mean 40 37 37 38 25
Nitrogen Dioxide Capture Rate (%) 95 94 99 45 60
PM10 Particulate 40 ug/m3 as an annual mean 22 21 23 21 18
PM10 Particulate 50 ug/m3 as a 24 hour mean, not to be exceeded more than 35 times a year 7 7 0 4 0
PM10 Particulate Capture Rate (%) 97 95 90 97 62
PM2.5 Particulate 25 ug/m3 as an annual mean 9
PM2.5 Particulate Capture Rate (%) 53

Questions which immediately leap into my head are;

  • Why is the capture rate dropping, do we suddenly care less? What’s going on there?
  • Is the drop COVID and airport slowdown related?
  • What would be the impact if we drastically grew airport traffic, and cars heading to the airport?
  • Particular Matter 2.5 look only to have been measured for the last year.

Looking at the graphs of the pollution in town around The Point in Eastleigh, I can see Nitrogen Dioxide peaked around 70-80ug/m3 for 4 hours on the 31st between 7am and 11am. Goverment advice has more advice on what the acceptable limits are, and its within it… but lower is better, right? :slight_smile:

In case you’re interested, the airport runway extension planning application report contains an air quality section to document its impact on Eastleigh’s air quality. Looks like the report is suggesting the NOx impact on air quality from Aircraft operations will be offset by improvements in cars (electric, etc). It also notes the Campbell road receptor is under-estimating results, which may affect the data above. The report does note Public Health England’s position that “currently there is no clear evidence of a safe level of exposure below which there is no risk of adverse health effects”.

So there you have it - we don’t know how much is harmful to the health of humans, but we might be increasing it!

What do you guys think - are you guys aware of how much harm the air around you can have? Are we doing enough to improve air quality, and can more be done?


This is a very technical subject of course. I have spent a bit of time pondering it. Here goes:

Why is the capture rate dropping, do we suddenly care less? What’s going on there?

  • I wouldn’t say people care less, I’d say it is actually dropping, see below.

Is the drop COVID and airport slowdown related?

  • Almost certainly.
  • In a recently published work entitled Effects of COVID-19 lockdown on global air quality and health by Liu et.al. (2021), researchers examined the effects of eight different lockdown controls on air pollution. They find that: “with regard to different lockdown measures, intra/intercity travel restrictions have a better performance in curbing air pollution”. They examine a range of data before arriving at this conclusion.

What would be the impact if we drastically grew airport traffic, and cars heading to the airport?

  • This is difficult to say without performing complex modelling that is specific to Southampton Airport – was this missing from the planning report?
  • Notwithstanding the above, Southampton Airport’s close proximity to the railway makes it very popular with customers. I believe that if the airport were to close (I don’t think this can be ruled out), that traffic would still be there, just going in the opposite direction to Heathrow (or perhaps Gatwick). In fact, it might actually get worse as the rail links to Heathrow and Gatwick are not as good.

Are you guys aware of how much harm the air around you can have?

  • Yes.
  • From my own experience: my father used to live in Mumbai. The streets around his neighbourhood were packed with vehicles everyday in ways that are pretty unimaginable to people in western Europe today. Needless to say, walking around in certain areas was not a pleasant experience.
  • From my cursory research: in How can air quality affect health? Douglass (2020) cites data from Liu et.al. (2019) that shows a direct correlation between a sustained PM10 and PM2.5 level and a “significant increase in all-cause, cardiovascular and respiratory mortality”. Liu et.al. conducted a study examining air quality in cities in 24 countries.

Are we doing enough to improve air quality, and can more be done?

  • More could always be done. Here are some policy recommendations from peer reviewed research outputs that I believe are worthy of consideration:
    • development of electric powered aircraft (Barmania (2018)) – Southampton and its environs are in pole position to do this given the strength of the University’s aeronautical engineering department and the city’s links to aviation. From Reform UK’s perspective, we believe that a ingenuity, consumer preference and entrepreneurship would naturally guide the UK to lead in this area;
    • offering incentives to encourage airport taxis and bus switch to electric power (if they haven’t already) – again, use national and local policy tools (e.g. tax breaks) to nudge the sector in this direction. Our preference is always for a balanced, collaborative approach rather than aggressive state intervention; and
    • schemes to encourage the manufacture and installation of portable air filtration units in homes, schools and offices in areas with the worst air quality levels. In Portable air purification: review of impacts on indoor air quality and health, Cheek et.al. (2020) found that these help to reduce PM2.5 indoors. If these could be made in the Solent corridor this would be a win-win, a win for public health and a win for Great Britain plc. If schemes can be designed for solar energy panels, then why not for these?

The thing is about airports is that their health impacts are multi-faceted. As reported in the World Health Organisation’s (“WHO”) Bulletin: “airports do not have to be unhealthy” (Barmania, 2018): “airports play a positive economic and social role, as economic drivers and large employers. They connect people for business and holiday, and bring together friends and family, so they also make people happy” (Samson in Barmania, 2018). Like everything in life, one needs to find a sensible balance.

Alexander Culley

Reform UK candidate for Eastleigh North (Hampshire County Council) and Eastleigh Central (Eastleigh Borough Council)