A league table of predicted city-wide air pollution concentrations among UK cities has found Milton Keynes to rank as the best performing, whereas Luton placed bottom.
The analysis, carried out by the Universities of Birmingham and Lancaster, published in Environmental Research Letters, used government statistics to assess the relationships between a city’s population, built-up area, air pollution released and the expected city-wide pollution concentrations. This enabled researchers to predict what emissions and concentrations are expected for an urban area of any population in the UK.
Milton Keynes was found to top the table owed to it doing much better than expected for its size. There was found to be a substantial gap between the amount of pollution produced and the concentrations in the air. This high standing was said to reflect personal transport choices, the town’s traffic management and the nature of the city’s lay-out, with a mix of grids, roundabouts, parks and green spaces. Luton, in contrast, was explained as coming bottom due to its compactness working against its dispersion of pollution. This led to worse-than expected city-wide concentrations. Other findings included that many cities across the Midlands were performing worse than expected, while London – ranking mid-table – was adjudged to be faring better than expected.
Lead author, Professor Rob MacKenzie of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, said: “Using this type of analysis will help planners make those important decisions that find the right balance between spreading out urban development and providing sufficient green spaces, but also managing emissions by transporting people efficiently and heating homes efficiently.”