Pollution levels have dropped by half during the coronavirus lockdown, a report has revealed.

As Southend Council weighs up the impact of the virus and how things will change in future, it was revealed nitrous oxide (NO2) levels, produced predominantly be traffic, has dropped by 50 per cent in parts of the borough.

Areas of the A127, including the Bell junction in Southend have been the subject of air quality management plans to alleviate high levels of NO2.

Plans are under way to widen the Bell junction to speed traffic through and prevent a build up of idling traffic.

The council now hopes to carry on the benefits of lockdown to bolster its 2015 green city ambitions. The cabinet report said: “Many people have commented that the cleaner air, a more peaceful environment, bluer skies, along with more cycling and walking may see enhanced support for greener measures taken by local authorities.

“For example, the Government’s provision of £250m emergency active travel fund may enable the council to promote cycling and walking through, among other things, pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, safer junctions, and more cycle and bus-only corridors, where appropriate. Some cities have taken advantage of the fall in car use during lockdown to reallocate car space to cycling and walking and seen green investment as a central part of their economic recovery plans.”

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “We need to ensure we continue our work to become a green city, tackle climate change, our transport infrastructure, understand local community issues and continue to change and evolve as an organisation.”

Jon Fuller, spokesman for the South East Essex Friends of the Earth said: “It is essential that our recovery from the Covid-19 crisis is undertaken in such a way as to tackle the climate emergency, which is on track to kill far more people than coronavirus.

“If we have to live with the disease for many months or years, we need to allocate far more space to pedestrians and cyclists. And that means pushing the private car away from the town centre.”