COUNCILLORS united to put improving air quality at the top of their agenda.

One year into their Better Breathing action plan, West Sussex councillors agreed to call on the Government for funding to help tackle air quality issues.

At a meeting of the full council, Conservative Kevin Boram tabled a notice of motion laying out air quality ambitions for the next three years while asking for more money to achieve them.

Leader Paul Marshall said: “A significant amount of work has started to be done in this area but there’s more to do. We do need to lobby Government to start providing funding that allows us, with our partners, to tackle these issues locally.

“We need to work with our districts and boroughs and with our neighbouring councils as well, to demonstrate the seriousness of this issue and to emphasise that we know what needs to be done. Let us do it. Give us the funding to do that.”

Ideas included reminding drivers to switch off their engines while waiting outside schools, hospitals and at level crossings, with plans for a “switch it off” campaign to be run across the county.

There are also plans to increase the number of charging points for electric vehicles and to make sure that all planning policies include criteria to protect the air quality when new developments are built.

Cllr Boram said: “West Sussex County Council cannot deliver everything in this important matter but it can lead.

“Not only in the way it delivers its own services, but also through planning policy and lobbying for more effective legislation.”

The motion was supported by members of all parties.

If a council discovers an area where air quality is poor and could affect people’s health, it must declare it to be an Air Quality Management Area.

Deborah Urquhart, councillor for environment, said West Sussex currently had ten such areas, with an 11th likely to be declared this year.

Of the ten, she said five were still exceeding standards laid down by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Cllr Urquhart said the work being put in place was “very much the start of a journey”.

She added: “Our health and prosperity depend on the health of the planet on which we live.

“We need to protect and sustain the health of the natural environment.

“Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK.

“West Sussex County Council and all West Sussex district and borough councils are committed to ensuring that our county is a healthy place to live.”