What is air quality

‘Air quality’ describes the cleanliness of the air we breathe, and ‘poor air quality’ means that the air is polluted with gases and particles which are harmful to our health.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2 or NOx)

NO2 is an invisible gas produced when fossil fuels are burned, for example, petrol and diesel in vehicle engines, and gas in boilers and gas stoves.  NO2 is sometimes expressed as ‘NOx’, which includes NO2 and nitrogen oxide (NO), another gas produced at the same time as NO2.

NO2 is a respiratory irritant and can cause inflammation of the airways.  This can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.  Exposure to NO2 can reduce lung development in babies and children, which can affect lung health throughout life.

Particulate matter (PM)

Particulate matter refers to solid or liquid particles suspended in the air. PM is often written as ‘PM10’ or ‘PM2.5’; the number indicates the size of the particles in micrometres (a micrometre is one-thousandth of a millimetre).  For comparison, human hair is about 50 micrometres in diameter. PM2.5 is referred to as ‘fine particulate matter’ because it is so small and can reach deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream.

The majority of PM is from human activities such as burning fossil fuels in vehicle engines, in kitchens and in open fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.  Outdoor fires (such as garden bonfires) are also a source of PM.  PM is also produced when building materials are crushed or broken on construction sites, and by friction between surfaces such as vehicle tyres on roads.

Long-term exposure to PM increases the risk of heart and lung disease, while short-term exposure can trigger or exacerbate health conditions such as asthma.  The World Health Organization does not believe there to be any safe level of exposure to PM2.5.

The national air quality objectives are the legal limits for air pollution in the UK.  The target values for NO2, PM10 and PM2.5 are prescribed  in The Air Quality Standards Regulations (2010).


Air pollution and health

Long-term exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause as many as 4000 premature deaths each year.  Air pollution can affect everyone's health at any stage in our lives, but children and young people, older people, and people with existing lung or heart conditions are more vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution.

(Dajnak D et al, London Health Burden of Current Air Pollution and Future Health Benefits of Mayoral Air Quality Policies, Environmental Research Group: Imperial College London; 2019, p1-72.)

An overview of air quality in Redbridge

Exposure to air pollution can damage our health at any stage in our lives.  Short-term and long-term exposure to polluted air is known to cause and contribute to health conditions including respiratory (breathing) and cardiovascular (heart) illnesses.  Long-term air pollution exposure can contribute to premature death and affect the health of many more with asthma, hay fever and other conditions.

We are all at risk from air pollution, but children, older people, pregnant women, and people with existing health conditions are more vulnerable than others.

Sources of air pollution in Redbridge

Road vehicles are the main source of air pollution in Redbridge.  Gas boilers, domestic wood-burning, and construction are also important sources of air pollution in Redbridge.

As well as affecting air quality and health locally, PM2.5 can be transported long distances from its sources and can therefore pose a health risk for a much larger population.  A significant amount of the PM2.5 in Redbridge is from sources outside London, including from polluting activities elsewhere in the UK and in Europe.


Measuring and improving air quality

The London Local Air Quality Management framework requires us to measure air quality levels and compare the results against the national air quality objectives.  In 2003, the whole borough of Redbridge became an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as it was not meeting the objectives.

We measure air quality in two different ways: with small ‘diffusion tubes’ which measure NO2 levels, and with automatic electronic sensors at monitoring stations.

There are 2 monitoring stations in Redbridge:

  • Gardner Close, Wanstead
  • Ley Street Depot, Ilford

These take hourly readings of a range of air pollutants including nitrogen oxides, particulates and ozone.

In December 2022, there were 26 diffusion tube monitoring sites across the borough; the tubes are tested in a laboratory each month, to provide NOconcentrations.

Our monitoring data is reported to the Greater London Authority each year in Annual Status Reports.

Air Quality Annual Status Reports (ASR)

Find out more about the air quality in Redbridge, how we monitor it and strategies for managing air pollution in our latest air quality annual status report.

Air quality in Redbridge is improving.  NO2 levels at Redbridge’s automatic monitoring sites have decreased significantly during recent years, with a significant reduction from 2015 to 2021.  PM has decreased over this period but still does not meet the World Health Organization air quality standards.

Based on the monitoring data, we published an Air Quality Action Plan 2020-25 (PDF 2.98MB) which aims to improve air quality in the borough by working in collaboration with all members of Redbridge's community and Regional Government.  Our planned actions are focused on reducing nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter emissions to make the air cleaner and healthier, and our key priorities are set out in the AQAP Executive Summary ( PDF 503KB).  The Annual Status Reports include a summary of the progress achieved in delivering our action plan measures.

The London Air Quality Network reports pollution levels recorded during the day at the two Redbridge automatic monitoring stations.  Summary reports are also available to view for each monitoring site.

Breathe London is a community project that uses small air quality sensing nodes to measure pollutants.  The data is mapped according to an index scale from 1 to 10.  A banding level of 1 to 3 is low, while 10 is very high, for the particular pollutant being measured.  There are several nodes sited around Redbridge and the data measured is reported regularly throughout the day.

Supporting communities and schools

Air pollution can seriously affect the health of children and young people, 5% of children in Redbridge under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with asthma.

We are exposed to air pollution when we travel or spend time outside our homes, including on our way to school and to work.

It is important that we understand how our health can be affected by air pollution, and how to avoid air pollution and reduce our contribution to it.  We are working to support communities and schools by raising awareness about AQ in Redbridge and implementing actions that will reduce exposure to pollution:

  • Healthy School Streets
  • Created School Superzones (SSZ) around Loxford Primary School and Cleveland Road Primary School
  • We Care For Our Air supporting communities to tackle local air pollution
  • Supporting primary schools to enable sustainable and active travel with TfL STARS
  • Idling (leaving your vehicle engine running while stationary) creates air pollution and is usually unnecessary.  A Borough wide anti-idling Traffic Management Order was introduced in 2019 under the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002 to address unnecessary idling.  The council’s traffic wardens are now able to issue a penalty charge notice (PCN) to motorists who have stopped with their engine idling.

Low Emission Zone (LEZ)

The majority of Redbridge is covered by the Low Emission Zone.

If you want to drive a lorry, bus, coach or other specialist heavy diesel vehicle in the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) without paying a daily charge, it needs to meet certain emissions standards.  The LEZ scheme is dealt with by Transport for London (TfL) through the Transport for London website.

Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) Expansion 2023

You may also be affected by the expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone which is expanding across all London Boroughs including Redbridge from 29 August 2023.

Wood burning stoves and air quality

We discourage all forms of burning as it causes air pollution, can upset neighbours and can damage health (particularly of children, older people, and those with breathing and heart conditions).

Burning wood and coal at home emits dangerous pollution known as fine particulate matter (often referred to as PM2.5), which is a known carcinogen and can cause asthma, heart disease and other serious illnesses affecting our lungs, hearts and brains. Exposure to particulate air pollution can also trigger the symptoms of existing health conditions.

Current evidence suggests there is no safe level of PM2.5, and both short-term and long-term exposure to PM2.5 increases the risk of early deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.  PM2.5 is not visible to the naked eye, so even ‘smokeless’ fuels and efficient appliances may still produce a significant amount of air pollution.

How can I reduce pollution from my wood burning stove or fireplace?

The most effective way of reducing pollution and protecting everyone’s health is simply to avoid burning any wood, coal, or other solid fuels at home.  This can be achieved by using alternative energy heating mechanisms which use gas or electricity. Improving energy efficiency in your home reduces energy usage and reduce your carbon emission.

Even the most efficient wood-fuelled heating systems emit approximately 300 times more PM2.5 than gas boilers, so if you are able to use gas or electricity for heating instead of wood or coal you will be helping to improve air quality.

airText - air quality alerts

airTEXT is a free service for the public providing air quality alerts by SMS text message, email and voicemail and three day forecasts of air quality, pollen, UV and temperature across Greater London and the South East. 


Permitted processes are installations that have a potential to cause pollution, e.g dry cleaners, vehicle re-sprayers, petrol stations. Environmental Health Officers inspect and regulate these processes/installations, also known as Part B processes.

Redbridge currently does not have any Part A2 processes in the Borough.

To operate a permitted process without a permit is an offence. A permit is issued under Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC) or Local Air Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC).

Public register of permitted processes

Information on permitted processes/installations (e.g. applications, inspections and notices) is stored on a public register. 

Our register of premises operating with a Part B environmental permit [PDF 176kB] is tabulated and is up-to-date as of March 2024.


The whole of Redbridge is a Smoke Control Area, where people and businesses must use an exempt appliance and/or authorised fuel.  For example, you could have an exempt wood burner, burning non-authorised fuel, such as untreated wood; or an open fire and other non-exempt appliances, burning an authorised dry, smokeless fuel.

From May 2021, it became an offence to sell, rather than to burn, unauthorised fuel under the  Air Quality (Domestic Solid Fuels Standards) (England) Regulations 2020.  You could be fined up to £1,000 if you sell unauthorised fuel to customers using 'non-exempt appliances' in smoke control areas.

If purchasing solid fuel, ensure that it is certified as Ready to Burn.  The Ready to Burn mark on packaging identifies solid fuels that are legal to burn at home in compliance with the Air Quality Regulations 2020.

Once a fire is established there should be hardly any smoke visible, and certainly no grey or dark smoke.  Dry storage of fuel is very important because burning damp fuel may produce smoke.  It is an offence to produce smoke from:

  • a building chimney
  • an appliance - unless it is an ‘exempt appliance’
  • any fixed boiler

 You could be fined up to £1,000 if you do not comply with the law.

Smoke Control Areas do not apply to bonfires. View our bonfires page for more information

Contact the Council's Pollution Team for further advice.


Mayor of London’s and London Borough of Redbridge Ley Street Business Low Emission Neighbourhood Project

In support of the council’s commitment to improve local Air Quality and support action on climate change, the Council in January 2020 received notification that it had been awarded a grant of £250,000 through the Mayor of London’s Air Quality fund for a Business Low Emission Neighbourhood (BLEN) project.

The Council’s BLEN project proposal is centred around the Council Ley Street Depot in Ilford and the shopping district at Ley Street junction. This site was selected owing to exceedances in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentrations and high Particulate (PM10) concentrations. Congestion levels as well as poor public realm infrastructure has adverse impacts on businesses, who experience problems with freight deliveries and a lack of footfall outside their shops. The depot was identified as a key site for intervention as it is within the Council’s control.

The Redbridge BLEN aims to encourage electric vehicle (EV) uptake, support active travel, and improve local freight movements. This BLEN project centres on a partnership with E.ON energy to install an ultra-fast EV charging stations at the Council Ley Street depot to support local businesses.

The project commenced on the 1 February 2020 and is anticipated to be delivered by 1st September 2022. The key work streams of the project include:

  • EV rapid chargers and an Ultra-Fast Charging hub at the Council Ley Street Depot
  • Greening at the A12 / Ley Street / Horns Road junction
  • Freight planning and consolidation / last mile deliveries
  • A raised walkway junction improvement across wards road / Ley Street to include more greening with sustainable urban drainage   

Water quality

A private water supply is any water supply which is not provided by a water utility company.  The source of the supply may come from:

  • wells
  • boreholes
  • springs
  • rivers or streams
  • lakes or ponds
  • private distribution systems (mains water privately distributed by a second party)

All private water supplies should be registered with Redbridge Council where a Public Register is maintained. 

Requirement for risk assessment and sampling

The Private Water Supply regulations 2009 require every relevant supply to undergo a risk assessment conducted by the council. 

A risk assessment is a proactive approach to identify potential hazards to human health and failures of national drinking water standards. 

Mains drinking water supply

The mains drinking water is supplied by Thames Water and Essex & Suffolk Water.  If you have any concerns about your drinking water at home, please phone the Customer Contact Centre on 020 8554 5000.

We examine the quality of the mains water in food manufacturers including breweries and other food industries within the Borough.

The Environment Agency is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of fresh, marine, surface and underground water in England and Wales.

For further information about sources of water pollution, the potential dangers it causes and tips on how to prevent and keep our waters clean, then visit the Water Pollution website

Land contamination

Land or soil contamination may be present as a result of historical industrial activities, leaking underground storage tanks, waste disposal activities and from natural processes, for example, ground gas generating material (peat and uranium containing rocks).  Contamination may be present in various forms including, biological, chemical or radioactive.

Land is defined as 'contaminated' under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, when there is a significant possibility of significant harm or significant pollution of controlled waters.  A risk is present if there is a source of contamination, a receptor and a pathway that links the two. 

The presence of contamination, therefore, does not necessarily present an unacceptable risk. For example, a site may have soil that contains high levels of harmful metals. However, if the land has been built on and there is no garden or exposed soil then there is no risk to health as there is no pathway for contamination to affect people and is not therefore classed as ‘contaminated land’.

Site search enquiry

Under Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)

You can request environmental search information to check if a property or a site had a former land use that may leave a source of contaminants in the ground.  We search our records for information about past uses of the site and adjoining areas.

We charge £200 for commercial sites and £90 for residential sites. This is to cover the cost of the officer time spent searching for records and preparing a written response.

Please complete our online Land Contamination Service form selecting the relevant contaminated land option from the 'complaint' drop down menu.

How we deal with land containing contaminants

Land with contaminants can be dealt with in two ways; either through the planning process during the redevelopment of a site or through the identification of 'contaminated land' under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

Planning Process

Land contamination, or the possibility of it, should be considered in the preparation of development plan documents and individual planning applications.  The National Planning Policy Framework provides guidance for the preparation of local plans and decisions on planning applications. 

It remains the responsibility of the landowner or developer to identify land affected by contamination and secure a safe development. They should take into account ground conditions and ensure that adequate site investigation and remediation are carried out and reported by competent persons with recognised qualifications and sufficient experience.

A guide has been developed by Redbridge for use by landowners, developers and their Agents to assist in the submission of information in support of planning applications when dealing with land that is either known and/or suspected to be contaminated or where the proposed use is particularly sensitive and/or vulnerable to land contamination.  A copy of this guidance document for developing on land affected by contamination is available on request by emailing Pollution.Group@redbridge.gov.uk

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990

The contaminated land regime under Part IIA (also known as Part 2A) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 makes provisions for assessing land in its current land use.  Part 2A came into force in 2000 which requires local authorities to identify 'contaminated land' and ensure that significant risks are dealt with.  Designation of land as ‘Contaminated Land’ under Part 2A would only be used if no better solution were available.

Public 'Contaminated Land' Register

Each site identified as 'contaminated' under Part 2A legislation will be recorded in a Public 'Contaminated Land' Register.  Currently, there are no sites recorded in the register for Redbridge (last updated April 2023).

London Earth

London Earth is a project completed by the British Geological Survey aiming to characterise the soil across Greater London.  Soil sampling was carried out between 2005 and 2010 for 50 elements, including lead, copper and iron. 

View further information on the British Geological Survey website

Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tanks (USTs) can be found at sites with former industrial land use including petrol filling stations, car wash and vehicle maintenance garages.  On redevelopment sites, decommissioning and removal of these tanks will be required to satisfy the Council requirements as well as an assessment of ground pollution risks.

Following confirmation of the presence of underground storage tanks at a site, the disused petroleum tanks inspector at the Petroleum Enforcement Authority, in this case the London Fire Brigade, should be contacted as soon as possible to ensure safe methods of working are established for tank decommissioning and removal.