Sheffield has a long history of being among the first to tackle air pollution. The proud heritage of steelmaking in the city made it world famous.
Unfortunately, Sheffield was also infamous for its badly polluted air.
From the early 1800s right up to 1950s Sheffield had a terrible air pollution problem. However, pioneering local politicians and council officers battled with new legislation, legal threats from steel barons and traditional practices to alter the image of Sheffield, giving the city a new tag: ‘The cleanest industrial city in Europe’.
The creation of smoke control areas was so successful that by the early 1980s they covered the whole of the urban parts of the city, and the transformation of Sheffield’s air was thought to have been complete. However, the new threats from traffic emissions became the next clean air challenge.
Continuing this tradition of keeping Sheffield’s air clean, the city council’s air quality team is highly regarded amongst the profession. In 2007 Sheffield was awarded beacon status for ‘Delivering Cleaner Air’, one of only 4 such local authorities in the country. Beacon status recognises the work done by the city that goes beyond the required minimum to comply with legislation.
A great deal of activity is being done not only on monitoring and computer modelling of air quality but also to improve air quality. Sheffield City Council have continue to work on a variety of projects including electric vehicle trials, alternative fuels, green parking schemes, health research, guidance for developers and planners, publicity and awareness raising events, travel plans, and the promotion of walking, cycling and public transport.
Currently Sheffield City Council measures the air at over 200 sites in the City. The majority of these sites use simple inexpensive equipment, but six of them are fully automated un-staffed sites that work every hour of the day, all year round. These sites produce over 1.5 million pieces of information a year. The information gathered is used to inform developers, planners, transport experts, the local community, health experts and the Government about the air quality in the area. You can view the Sheffield Airmap here.