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FAQ 137 – Defra Funding Sources

What Defra funding sources can Local Authorities access to support their air quality work?

Defra’s air quality grant scheme provides funding to eligible local authorities to help improve air quality. The scheme helps local authorities to make air quality improvements and to meet their statutory duties under the Environment Act 1995 as amended by the Environment Act 2021. It has awarded over £70 million in funding to a variety of projects since it started in 1997.

Defra launched the Air Quality Grant 2020-21 on September 2 2020, with an application deadline of noon October 14 2020. The purpose of the Grant was to provide support to local authorities in England to develop and/or implement measures to improve local air quality. In particular, Defra were looking for applications with projects designed to:

  • Provide air quality benefits soon (i.e. in next 1 to 2 years).
  • Develop solutions over the longer term by increasing awareness and encouraging behavioural change.


The outcome of local authority Grant applications was announced by Defra on March 10 2021, with more than £5m funding awarded. This marked more than a doubling of the funding awarded in 2020 for this year’s grant, meaning a raft of particularly strong applications are being supported.

The application process especially welcomed projects to tackle fine particulate matter (PM2.5), which is known to be the pollutant of greatest harm to human health. Plans to increase awareness and encourage long-term behaviour change were also successful. These projects complement the wider UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations, which includes a £3.5 billion investment into air quality and cleaner transport. The plan is supporting the uptake of low emissions vehicles, getting more people to cycle and walk, and encouraging cleaner public transport.

Other proposals which have won funding include projects and campaigns to:

  • Partner with GPs to train them as Air Quality champions to raise awareness of the health impacts of air pollution in their surgeries.
  • Promote anti-idling and organise school street closures at pick-up and drop off times.
  • Encourage the uptake of electric taxis.
  • Enhance educational programmes for schoolchildren.


Further details of the local authority schemes receiving funding as part of the Air Quality Grant 2020-21 are available.

Local authorities will be made aware of future Air Quality Grant schemes as and when they become available for application.

As air quality in the UK is a devolved matter, Defra is responsible for the policy on air quality in England and international policy for the UK. The administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are therefore responsible for most policy and legislative matters affecting the environment in their own countries and funding for local authorities in the devolved administrations is available on this basis, as is the Mayor of London in relation to policy and legislation specific to London boroughs.

Local authorities are also encouraged to explore funding possibilities under other Government grant schemes as advertised on www.gov.uk.


Released: December 2015 (PDF, 2.1 MB, 70 pages)

Hosted on www.gov.uk

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