South Oxfordshire

As a local authority our responsibilities relating to air quality management come from legislation laid out in the UK Air Quality Strategy

There are currently three air quality management area’s (AQMA’s) designated within South Oxfordshire. These are areas where the levels of pollutants in the air have reached those identified by the government as harmful to health and are in breach of what is called the ‘national air quality objectives’. 

Our Turn it Off Campaign

We’ve launched a new campaign, supported by Public Health England, to help improve local air quality across South Oxfordshire by asking drivers to turn off their engines when they are not driving. 

Keeping the engine running – known as idling - while parked at the side of the road, sitting in traffic, or waiting to collect someone, contributes to an increase in levels of air pollutants.

The aim of our campaign is to encourage people to think about idling and if they are stopped for more than a minute or parked then they should turn their engines off.

For more information on this project, please visit the campaign website:

Our AQMA’s

Air pollution levels have been monitored in Henley since 1998 and due to levels of NO2 exceeding the national air quality objectives, an AQMA was declared in 2002.

The air pollution problem in Henley is not unlike many others across the country in that it comprises a busy road network and relatively narrow streets which serve to prevent the dispersion of pollutants therefore trapping the pollution at street level. 

Henley's AQMA - Map

Air pollution here has also been monitored since 1998. An AQMA was declared in 2005 again as a result of NO2 levels exceeding the national objectives. 

The air pollution problem in Wallingford is attributable to the traffic congestion along narrow streets lined with high sided buildings which leads to the creation of a ‘street canyon’. Again the street canyon effect means that the pollutants are unable to disperse and are trapped at ground level.

Wallinford's AQMA - Map

Air pollution monitoring in Watlington commenced in 2003 with an AQMA designated in 2009 due to NO2 exceedences.

The air pollution problem in Watlington is again based on congestion levels in an area of narrow streets and relatively high sided buildings creating a ‘street canyon’ effect with pollutants unable to effectively disperse.

Watlington's AQMA - Map

Action Plan

In order to improve air quality both within these areas and in the district as a whole, we have produced an Air Quality Action Plan. This provides the mechanism by which local authorities in collaboration with national agencies and others, state their intentions for bringing about air quality improvements. 

Developer Guidance

South Oxfordshire has also produced a Developer Guidance document in fulfilment of one of the action plan measures. This guidance aids developers and planners alike in assessing the air quality impacts of a development and any associated mitigation that may be required to help offset the effects of a given development. Ultimately it aims to achieve sustainable development in the district that achieves the best balance of social, economic and environmental considerations.

Low Emission Strategy

 As a result of a further successful DEFRA bid in 2014 the creation of a LES and associated modelling was completed in 2015, showing that if all the measures are implemented then the improvements to air quality would mean the AQMA’s in Wallingford and Watlington could be revoked and the Nitrogen Dioxide levels in these towns would be within the national objective levels.

The Low Emission Strategy was adopted in November 2017 and some of its main actions are:

  • Promoting low emission behaviours
  • Supporting the uptake of electric and low emission vehicles
  • Implementing a low emission freight and bus strategy.
  • Using planning and procurement to drive the long-term vision of reducing emissions from transport

Each of these themes are not separate but overlap and will work together as a coherent whole to provide an effective LES.  For example, the electric vehicle strategy will use planning and procurement powers to promote the uptake of vehicles, and the low emission behaviour theme includes eco-driving and anti-idling campaigns that will also be reflected in the bus and freight emission strategies.  

Low Emission Strategy

Previous Reports

2009 Updating and Screening Assessment Report
2010 Progress Report
2011 Progress Report
2012 Updating and Screening Assessment Report
2013 Progress Report
2014 Progress Report
2015 Updating and Screening Assessment Report
2016 Annual Status Report (ASR)

2017 Annual Status Report (ASR)

2018* Annual Status Report (ASR)

2019* Annual Status Report (ASR)

2020 Annual Status Report (ASR)

2021 Annual Status Report (ASR)

2022 Annual Status Report (ASR)

*In 2020 South Oxfordshire District Council identified an error in NO2 levels recorded at some of our passive monitoring stations (diffusion tubes) in March and April 2017. Following Defra’s guidance, the 2018 and 2019 ASRs have been now been amended with the updated/correct figures.  These updates and corrections have all been approved by Defra.

Other useful information

Defra's guidance on how to reduce the environmental and health impacts of using wood burning stoves or open fires. Further information can be found here.

Monthly Monitoring Data Reports - Air Quality England

Assessment of the impact of the proposed edge road on the Watlington AQMA 2019

Assessment of the impact of the proposed edge road on the Watlington AQMA – Addendum 1: Dispersion modelling using a different traffic dataset 2020