SOUTHEND and Basildon are among the most polluted areas of the UK, shocking figures have revealed.

Data from the government shows that huge numbers of fine particles in the air are well above World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for both boroughs.

The average concentration of PM2.5 pollution particles in Southend was ten micrograms per cubic metre in 2019 – below the UK limit of 25, but right on the WHO guideline limit of ten.

In Basildon, the concentration was 10.3, which is above the guidelines. The boroughs are two or more than 50 in the UK exceeding the guidelines.

Steps have been taken in Southend to address the issue, including Southend Council’s “School Streets” scheme closing roads outside schools.

The programme has already seen several schools join.

Daniel Cowan, councillor for St Laurence ward, admitted there isn’t a “silver bullet” for reducing air quality.

He said: “We want to take it seriously and becoming a carbon neutral council by 2030 is a step in the right direction, and the School Streets campaign and ramping up our tree planting.

“Improvements made to our major junctions which are a huge cause of pollution from idling vehicles.

“There’s no silver bullet to improve air quality, it will be doing lots of things on a small and large scale.

“We can encourage more people to ditch their cars in favour of walking and public transport.”

In January last year, a new 50mph speed limit was introduced on the A127 from the Fortune of War junction to the junctions with Pound Lane and Cranfield Park.

Basildon councillors said in February this year that the new speed limit had helped to reduce emissions, but would still pursue a new road layout to straighten the Fortune of War junction.

The Government is bringing back its Environment Bill to parliament this year to set out stronger air quality limits.

A spokesman said: “We know there is more to do as we build back greener from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Through our landmark Environment Bill we have committed to a new concentration target on PM2.5 - the most damaging pollutant to human health - and as part of this we will be considering the WHO’s guidelines for PM2.5.”