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Urban Audit - Comparing United Kingdom and European towns and cities, 2010–12

Released: 23 July 2014 Download PDF

Foreword

Urban Audit is a European Commission sponsored project to provide comparable data on urban areas.

Urban Audit, 2010–12, includes 185 main variables for the UK and further derived figures based on these. More than 800 towns and cities are covered across the EU28, (plus Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey), 163 of which are in the UK.

Overview

This article sets out to provide an overview of key variables linked to urban policy themes that are relevant to EU, national and local government.

Introduction

What are UK towns and cities like to live and work in? And how do they compare with other places in Europe?

Urban Audit is a European Commission funded project whose aim is to measure and improve city life by understanding our urban environments and sharing experiences1. Comparable data on a variety of themes are collected by individual nations and supplied to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union (EU), for publication.

The value of Urban Audit lies in the streamlined methodology of the data collection, despite very different sources, allowing international comparison with other cites and analysis over time. Urban Audit V is the most recent round and provides data for UK and European cities between 2010 and 2012, with the main reference year 2011. There are more than 100 main variables for the UK and many further derived figures based on these. The Eurostat website links to a comprehensive interactive database that details all statistics across all geographies and time periods. Annex A provides more detail on the geography of Urban Audit.

Urban Audit provides a wide range of data, including demography, transport, housing, environment and economy. More than 70% of people in Europe live in towns or cities and this report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) sets out to provide an overview of key variables linked to urban policy themes that are relevant to EU, national and local government. These are motorisation rates, housing type, old age dependency ratios and air quality. The choice of these topics is intended to highlight the type and breadth of available data and does not attempt to paint a comprehensive picture of all aspects of urban life in the UK compared with Europe. However, the results show how similar UK towns and cities are to their European counterparts in some respects and how strikingly different in others. More reports covering specific themes and types of town or city are planned for the future. Information on the policy context for the variables is available in Annex B.

The median2 is used in this report as a typical value against which to measure specific towns and cities. Please note that all UK and European figures in this report are final and not subject to revision, but that further data are still being published and the relative ranking of cities may change. As a consequence some UK cities may not be discussed in every section; by the end of summer 2014 all Urban Audit V data will have been published and we encourage readers to further explore the datasets. It is not possible to label all towns and cities in every chart because of space reasons. All data are available in the workbooks that accompany each chart.

Please refer to the full Urban Audit database

Notes for Introduction

1For more information see the ONS Urban Audit User Guide

2The median is the middle value of a series of values when listed in size order. If the number of items is even the median is taken to be halfway between the middle pair of values. In this article it indicates the typical European value

Population of Urban Audit towns and cities

Urban Audit is based on European towns and cities with an urban core of at least 50,000 people and for this to represent at least 50% of the population of their respective municipality. Individual municipalities are referred to as ‘Core Cities’ in Urban Audit, although these include towns and London boroughs as well as cities. More information on the geography of Urban Audit is available in Annex A.

Eurostat classifies towns and cities by size. This is detailed in table 1, together with the distribution of the UK towns and cities.

Table 1: Classification of towns and cities by size

Eurostat label Name in this report Size Number of UK towns and cities
Small 50,000 – 100,000 inhabitants  14
Medium 100,000 – 250,000 inhabitants  96
Large 250,000 – 500,000 inhabitants  46
XL  Very large 500,000 – 1,000,000 inhabitants  5
XXL  1m – 5m 1,000,000 – 5,000,000 inhabitants  1
Global  Global More than 5,000,000 inhabitants  1

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Urban Audit details each London borough as a Core City to maximise data availability but also aggregates these to Greater City level. The Greater City boundary for London is the same as the European NUTS1 definition.

Some data in this report are examined with respect to town or city size. It is, however, beyond the scope of this report to draw definitive conclusions about the reasons behind certain features of individual municipalities. We hope that Urban Audit data can play a part for policy makers in building a clear picture of what their town or city is like, especially by using a broader geographic area than just the UK for comparison.
 

 

Transport

Urban Audit collects several variables for measuring the transport in towns and cities throughout the UK and Europe. Data are available on commuting distances and methods, road traffic accidents and average costs for public transport and taxis. The datasets also include the number of cars per thousand inhabitants, known as the motorisation rate.

Annex B discusses the rationale for collecting these data. Car ownership can be linked to a variety of factors including wealth, culture, population density and the availability of public transport. The data are taken over a three year period to allow for different national collection periods and provide the widest geographic coverage.

Number of private cars registered, 2009–11

In 2009 to 2011 the typical motorisation rate in European cities was 436 private registered cars per 1,000 people.

Lower motorisation rates were evident in larger cities including Manchester, Glasgow and London in the UK, as well as Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam. With higher numbers and densities of people in larger cities, good public transport may be more practical and desirable than in other areas. The stated aim of Glasgow City Council, for example is ‘to have a city where people use their cars only when necessary and to ensure that alternative modes of transport such as buses, trains, cycling and walking can be used for most journeys’1  The Mairie de Paris (City Hall) states that the fight against air pollution ranges from a sensible reduction in car traffic to the development of other modes of transport, adapted to urban centres.2

Smaller Central and Eastern European towns throughout Latvia, Estonia and Slovakia had lower motorisation rates. This may not be linked to size as small towns dominate in this part of Europe and higher motorisation rates were also clustered in other smaller towns in Central and Eastern Europe, notably in Bulgaria and Poland. As more data on public transport are loaded to the Urban Audit database further research on this may be possible. These more complex factors are beyond the scope of this report.

Italy also had higher motorisation rates; Rome and Turin were the only cities with more than half a million inhabitants in the top 5% of Europe for high motorisation rates.

The highest motorisation rate in the UK was in Fareham, with 539 cars for every 1,000 people, in the top 15% in Europe.

Higher than typical motorisation rates in the UK were seen mostly in medium sized towns, between 100,000 and 250,000 people. Of the 10 UK urban areas with the highest motorisation rates, nine had medium sized populations and the 10th was only just below the medium threshold. Among the 10 UK places with the lowest rates, two were medium sized, Oxford and Cambridge.

Figure 1 shows motorisation rates for the European towns and cities for which data were available at time of writing this report. The UK town with the highest motorisation rate, Fareham, is shown in blue, with the lowest motorisation rate, Manchester, shown in red.

 

Figure 1: Number of registered cars per 1000 population

European towns and cities, 2009–11

Figure 1: Number of registered cars per 1000 population
Source: Eurostat

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Notes for Transport

  1. Glasgow City Council website - Encouraging Public Transport

  2. Mairie de Paris (City Hall)

Housing

Urban Audit data are available on various aspects of housing, including dwelling tenure, average prices and living area measurements, as well as numbers of houses and apartments.

Numbers of houses and apartments, 2010–12

In 2010 to 2012 there was a notable predominance of houses in UK cities, rather than apartments, compared with Europe. Among the 50 European cities with the largest number of apartments, none were in the UK.

Of the 50 European cities with the largest number of houses, 34 were in the UK. There were far fewer apartments in terms of both percentage of stock and absolute numbers in most UK towns and cities compared with Europe. This difference between the UK and Europe is apparent irrespective of a place’s population size and can be clearly seen in figure 2 which shows very large European cities, 500,000 to 1 million people. The four UK cities of this size, for which data are available, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford are shown in blue.

Figure 2: Comparison of number of houses and apartments

Very large European towns and cities (500k- 1m population), 2010–12

Figure 2: Comparison of number of houses and apartments
Source: Eurostat

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Urban Audit data are collected on a consistent basis over comparatively long periods and provide useful change over time information. Between 1999-2002 and 2010-12 there were notable changes in the housing stock in European cities.

The percentage change in the number of houses and apartments in all very large European and UK cities for which data are available are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3 Percentage change in number of houses and apartments

Very large European towns and cities (500k- 1m population), 1999–2002 to 2010–12

Figure 3 Percentage change in number of houses and apartments
Source: Eurostat

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Changes in the percentage of apartments in the UK were high, reflecting the low base from which they are measured. There were also increases in the number of houses being built, although the size of these increases was not unusual compared with other European very large cities.

The absolute change in numbers of houses and apartments in very large European cities is shown in figure 4 and provides a clearer picture of how the mix of dwellings in the UK is still very much in favour of the house.

Figure 4: Change in number of houses and apartments

Very large European towns and cities (500k- 1m population), 1999–2002 to 2010–12

Figure 4: Change in number of houses and apartments
Source: Eurostat

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Demography

Urban Audit collects many demographic data including age, sex, and whether residents were born abroad. It also details ratios of different age groups including the old age dependency ratio. This is the ratio of the number of people of an age when they are conventionally considered economically inactive to the number of people conventionally considered of working age (population 65 and over to population 20 to 64 years). This section details England and Wales; more UK data are being added to the Eurostat database throughout 2014.

Old age dependency ratio

Of the 30 European towns or cities with the highest old age dependency ratio, two were in England and Wales; although we have an ageing population, the ratio of older people to working age people is not unusually high compared with other European towns and cities. Data in this section are taken from 2010 to 2012 in order to reflect different national collection periods and ensure the widest geographic coverage. In 2011 the two places in England and Wales with the highest ratios were Waveney which had 44.0 people aged over 65 for every 100 people aged 20 to 64 years and Torbay which had a ratio of 42.6. There were also two England and Wales towns or cities in the 30 European places with the lowest old age dependency ratios, Slough and Manchester.

Figure 5 shows the 30 European towns or cities with the highest and lowest old age dependency ratios, with England and Wales towns or cities shown in blue.

Figure 5: Old age dependency ratio

European towns and cities, 2010–12

Figure 5: Old age dependency ratio
Source: Eurostat

Notes:

  1. The old age dependency ratio covers population 65 and over to population aged 20 to 64 years.

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The geographic distribution of the old age dependency ratio in England and Wales can be clearly seen in map 1, with higher old age dependency ratios shown in blue by the coast, and lower ratios in light grey in urban centres. In England and Wales, 9 of the top 10 are by the seaside.

Map 1 Old age dependency ratio

England and Wales towns and cities, 2011

In England and Wales, the old age dependency ratio was highest in coastal areas
Source: Eurostat

Notes:

  1. Data are shown for the Urban Audit V areas of core cities. Core cities are composed of one or more local authority districts. They do not cover the whole of England and Wales.

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There were differences in England and Wales compared with Europe between the core city and the larger urban zone (LUZ) around it. Comparable data are available from 15 European countries for 292 towns and cities and their LUZ, of which 33 are in England and Wales. Generally in Europe the difference in the old age dependency ratio between the core city and its wider commuting zone was small, less than 5 points either way in nearly 90% of areas.

Where there were wide differences it was where the old age dependency ratio was higher in the surroundings than the core town or city. There were 32 areas in Europe that saw more than a 5 point higher ratio in the LUZ than the core city and 18 of these were in England and Wales. These higher ratios of older people in the suburbs seem to be a particular feature of England and Wales towns and cities, compared with the rest of Europe, perhaps due to a cultural preference for more space and tranquillity as people get older. This is important to note as there may be issues around access to services, transport and isolation if people live further distances from the core town or city, and these could be more pronounced for an ageing population.

Figure 6 shows European towns and cities where the surrounding area had an old age dependency ratio more than 5 points higher than the core urban centre.

Figure 6: Towns and cities for which the old age dependency ratio was more than 5 points higher in the larger urban zone than in the core town or city

European core towns and cities and larger urban zones, 2011

Figure 6: Towns and cities for which the old age dependency ratio was more than 5 points higher in the larger urban zone than in the core town or city
Source: Eurostat

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Air quality

Air pollution can have an impact on health as well the natural and built environment and, as such, measures are in place in UK and European towns and cities to monitor air quality, and encourage improvement when mutually agreed limits are breached. The concentration of an air pollutant is given in micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic metre air or µg/m³.

Concentrations of ozone (O³) in excess of 120µg/m³

Over the last decade there has been a marked decrease in the number of days that European, including UK, towns and cities have experienced concentrations of ozone in excess of 120µg/m³. The legal obligation is a maximum of 25 times recorded at this level in a year, averaged over a three year period.

In 2011 all of the 43 UK towns and cities for which data are available were below the required threshold. The highest number of times the limit was breached was 15 days in Richmond upon Thames, the only UK municipality above the European median of 11 days, but well below the EU obligation of 25 days. This was followed by Northampton and Brighton and Hove, both nine days.

Of the 43 UK towns and cities for which data are available, 16 did not experience any instances of excessive ozone concentration levels in 2011. European cities’ excessive ozone concentrations in 2011 are shown in figure 7. UK towns and cities are shown in blue, with the three highest labelled; there were multiple towns with no excesses.

Figure 7: Number of days that ozone (O³) concentration was in excess of 120µg/m³

European towns and cities, 2011

Figure 7: Number of days that ozone (O³) concentration was in excess of 120µg/m³
Source: Eurostat

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This is a notable change from 2003, the first year for which comparable data are widely available. In 2003 Richmond upon Thames, Northampton and Bournemouth all exceeded the legal limit with between 26 and 28 days when ozone concentrations were in excess of 120µg/m³. Bournemouth has subsequently reduced its instances to three days a year in 2011, the largest reduction in absolute terms of any place in the UK over the same period. Figure 8 shows the reduction in the number of days that ozone concentrations were above legal limits from 2003 to 2011. UK cities are shown in blue.

Figure 8: Change in number of days that ozone (O³) concentration was in excess of 120µg/m³

European towns and cities, 2003–11

Figure 8: Change in number of days that ozone (O³) concentration was in excess of 120µg/m³
Source: Eurostat

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Most European towns and cities have also seen a reduction in the number of times they breach the legal obligation on ozone level concentrations, although the data are volatile between these periods. In 2003 68% of European cities breached the 25 day limit. By 2011 it had dropped to 15%. Of these cities still breaching the threshold, more than half were in France or Italy, with no other notable geographic clustering.

Average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

The limit of an average annual concentration of NO2 at 40µg/m³ was exceeded in 10 European municipalities in 2011, of which three were London boroughs: Hillingdon, Camden and Westminster. The other cities in Europe with average NO₂ concentrations that exceeded the limit, were Monza, Turin, Rome, Milan, Modena and Novara, all in Italy, as well as Oslo in Norway.

There were 11 UK places in the 10% of European towns and cities with the highest average annual concentrations of NO2, although they did not all breach the EU obligation. These are shown in figure 9.

Figure 9: Towns and cities with the highest average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide

Highest 10 % of European towns and cities, 2011

Figure 9: Towns and cities with the highest average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide
Source: Eurostat

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Average annual concentration of NO₂varied widely between the 46 UK towns and cities for which comparable data are available. They ranged from 13.11µg/m³ in Norwich to 55.11µg/m³ in Hillingdon, London.

Figure 10: Average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide

UK towns, cities and London boroughs, 2011

Figure 10: Average annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide
Source: Eurostat

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Concentrations of particulate matter PM10 in excess of 50µg/m³

Under European environmental obligations, particulate matter PM10 concentrations may not exceed 50µg/m³ more than 35 days a year. Most UK towns and cities experienced at least one day of excess concentrations of PM10 during 2011, although none breached the EU limit. Only Edinburgh recorded no instances. Other UK cities saw between one day of excess PM10 levels in Aberdeen and 25 instances in Thurrock.

All places in the UK were mid to low ranking within Europe, where the median number of times that PM10 exceeded the legal limit was 21 days. Nearly a third of European cities experienced more than 35 days when the concentration of particulate matter exceeded the legal limit.

Of the 10% of European cities with the most instances of this kind of pollution, more than two thirds were in Poland and Bulgaria. Pernik in Bulgaria saw 180 days when the levels of PM10 were above agreed levels. The 10% of cities with fewest instances were much more geographically dispersed throughout the continent. European cities’ excessive PM10 concentrations in 2011 are shown in figure 11. UK towns and cities are shown in blue, with the highest and lowest labelled.

Figure 11: Concentrations of particulate matter in excess of 50µg/m³

European towns and cities, 2011

Figure 11: Concentrations of particulate matter in excess of 50µg/m³
Source: Eurostat

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Annex A: The geography of Urban Audit

The fifth and most recent round of Urban Audit, 2010-12, (UAV) builds on the geography of previous collections. Data are available for more than 800 cities across the 28 European Union states (EU-28), as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Turkey, at four geographic levels:

  • Core city: comprising towns as well as cities, boundaries are based on administrative units to maximise the availability of data.

  • Greater City: created for some cities where the continuous urban area extends beyond the core city.

  • Larger urban zone (LUZ): created for some cities to represent the wider functional economic area surrounding the core city or greater city based on its commuting zone.

  • Sub-city district: the neighbourhoods within those core cities that have a population greater than 250,000 people.

The result is a harmonised geographic reference that allows statistics to be compared in a meaningful way across Europe. This is particularly important for analysing data on air pollution, for example, that do not recognise political frontiers.

Definitions of capital cities and geographical groupings are taken from Eurostat.

Urban Audit V in the UK

Urban Audit V features 163 Core Cities in the UK. Of these, 11 have a Greater City, while 39 have a Larger Urban Zone. All boundaries align with whole or groups of local/unitary authorities in England and Wales, Council Areas in Scotland and District Council Areas in Northern Ireland. Data for Sub-City Districts are based on Middle Layer Super Output Areas in England and Wales (and equivalent areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

For more information including Great Britain GIS boundary files, lookups and an interactive map please see the ONS Geography Portal.

Table 2: Countries and their capital cities covered in Urban Audit V

EU locations

Country City English name
Belgium (BE)   Bruxelles / Brussel Brussels
Bulgaria (BG)   Sofia
Czech Republic (CZ)   Praha Prague
Denmark (DK)   København Copenhagen
Germany (DE)   Berlin
Estonia (EE)   Tallinn  
Greece (EL)   Athina Athens
Spain (ES)   Madrid
France (FR)   Paris
Ireland (IE)   Dublin  
Italy (IT)   Roma Rome
Republic of Cyprus (CY)   Lefkosia
Croatia (HR) Zagreb
Latvia (LV)   Riga  
Lithuania (LT)   Vilnius
Luxembourg (LU)   Luxembourg 
Hungary (HU)   Budapest
Malta (MT)   Valletta  
Netherlands (NL)   Amsterdam
Austria (AT)   Wien Vienna
Poland (PL)   Warszawa Warsaw
Portugal (PT)   Lisboa Lisbon
Romania (RO)   Bucuresti Bucharest
Slovenia (SI)   Ljubljana
Slovakia (SK)   Bratislava
Finland (FI)   Helsinki / Helsingfors
Sweden (SE)   Stockholm
United Kingdom (UK)   London  

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Table 2a: Countries and their capital cities covered in Urban Audit V

Non-EU locations

Country City English name
Turkey (TR) Ankara
Iceland (IS) Reykjavik         
Norway (NO) Oslo                 
Switzerland (CH)          Bern  

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Definitions align with the new OECD-EC definitions of cities, greater cities and commuting zones established in 2011.

Capital cities, Eurostat definition, p267-276.

Geographical groupings, Eurostat definition, p11-12.

Table 3: Classification of towns and cities by size

Eurostat label Name in this report Size Number of UK towns and cities
Small 50,000 – 100,000 inhabitants  14
Medium 100,000 – 250,000 inhabitants  96
Large 250,000 – 500,000 inhabitants  46
XL  Very large 500,000 – 1,000,000 inhabitants  5
XXL  1m – 5m 1,000,000 – 5,000,000 inhabitants  1
Global  Global More than 5,000,000 inhabitants  1

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Annex B: Urban policy context

Cities are increasingly recognised as centres of regional economic growth, and upwards of 70% of people in Europe live in urban areas.

Quality of life is crucial in attracting and retaining a skilled labour force, businesses, students, tourists and, most of all, residents in a city. Assessing the current situation is a prerequisite for any improvement, development and future monitoring.

Urban Audit data collection provides information and comparable measurements on the different aspects of the quality of life in European cities. These data are relevant to European, national and local government policy makers.

Eurostat City Statistics

Eurostat Regional Yearbook 2013

Number of private cars registered

Taken from the Eurostat metadata, relevance section:

‘Consumer travel behaviour and dependence on passenger cars influences many aspects of sustainable development. Cars provide access to work, essential services (such as education, health and shops), and cultural, social and leisure activities. But they also produce pollution, noise and waste, use large amounts of energy, cause accidents, and harm human health. These impacts are greater if car occupancy rates are low than if the same journey was made by bus, tram or train, which generally have higher occupancy rates. In addition, increases in transport infrastructure (such as highways, parking lots, etc.) lead to land sealing and ecosystem fragmentation. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the motorisation rate only measures car ownership and that it is the use of cars that is the main cause of environmental damage. Furthermore, this indicator makes no distinction between the types of vehicles, e.g. cars with ´green technologies´’.

Eurostat Motorisation Rate

This section uses the greater city figure for London; there was variation among individual boroughs, which can be seen in the data tables. Figures are taken from between 2009 and 2011 to reflect different national collection periods and provide the widest possible geographic coverage.

Houses and apartments

There are advantages and disadvantages to both houses and apartments, from a resident’s and an urban planning point of view.

Apartments provide a higher density of accommodation and usually result in less area of land per person being used; this minimises the environmental impact of sealing the soil with many buildings, roads, and parking places (which may lead to higher urban temperatures and flooding).

However, low-density single family houses with private gardens are still culturally more attractive in some towns and cities.

Urban planners must weigh the merits of building individual low-rise residential units against the benefits of more vertical housing which can provide more living area per person in a smaller footprint, be more energy efficient and be easily linked by public transport, rather than private vehicles.

European Environment Agency- Urban Environment

Old age dependency ratio

The population throughout Europe and the UK is ageing. Although this is a cause of celebration, as people’s health and life expectancy improves, there are economic considerations around pension and service provision.

This issue is a topic of discussion in most European countries as about 11 % of GDP is spent on support for the elderly, of which the major part is old-age pensions.

Population Ageing in the United Kingdom, its Constituent Countries and the European Union

Eurostat Quality Profile

Air quality

Ozone (O3)

Ground level ozone (O3) is a secondary pollutant produced by chemical reactions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in sunlight. It harms human health, the environment, crops and sensitive construction material like metals and paints.

EU agreement:

  1. Ozone concentration must not exceed 120g/m³ more than 25 times a year, averaged over a three year period.

In addition the Urban Audit measures the accumulated ozone concentration in excess of 70µg/m³.

Nitrogen Dioxide (NO₂)

Nitrogen dioxide is released into the air when fuels are burned, for example by motor vehicles, shipping, power generation, industry and households. It causes respiratory illnesses and contributes to acidification of soils and sources of water.

EU agreement:

  1. The concentration of nitrogen dioxide must not exceed 200µg/m³ more than 18 times a year (one hour averaging period).

  2. The annual average concentration of nitrogen dioxide must not exceed 40µg/m³.

Particulate Matter (PM10):

Particulate matter is fine dust emitted by road vehicles, shipping, power generation and households, and from natural sources such as sea salt, wind-blown soil and sand. Health concerns focus on particles of less than 10 micrometres in diameter (PM10).

EU agreement:

  1. Concentration of PM10 must not exceed 50µg/m³ more than 35 times a year (24 hour average).

  2. The annual average concentration of PM10 must not exceed 40µg/m³.

European Commission - Environment - Air Quality Standards

 

Background notes

  1. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Content from the Office for National Statistics.
© Crown Copyright applies unless otherwise stated.