Exeter tops new index of England’s cleanest cities

Exeter is the cleanest city in England, according to an in-depth analysis of environmental data by ENDS Report, which has put the city at the top of a new ranking of the country’s 55 largest urban centres.

On ENDS’s index, which ranks the 55 primary urban areas in England on more than 30 environmental factors grouped into five categories – air quality, climate, water quality, public realm and green behaviour – Exeter finished ahead of Worthing and Brighton in a top five dominated by cities on England’s south coast.

The city in Devon, south-west England, ranked highly on several measures, including air quality, climate and water quality. It recorded fewer days of poor air quality than any other urban centre in the index, and boasted below average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

READ MORE: The ENDS Report Clean Cities Index 2022: The full rankings revealed 

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READ MORE: The attributes that propelled Exeter to the top of the Clean Cities Index 2022

The city’s position at the top of the index was welcomed by local Labour MP Ben Bradshaw. He said that the city’s ranking was in part due to the efforts of the city’s “very forward looking, green tinged Labour administration”. “They understood the challenges of climate change, air quality, water quality, congestion, local amenity and quality of life long before most other people were thinking about these things,” he said. 

Worthing, in second position on the list, ranked highly on climate. According to the data, the West Sussex seaside town has the highest volume of installed renewable electricity capacity per 10,000 households of any of England’s primary urban areas, and the second lowest CO2 emissions per capita. 

London, meanwhile, finished at the bottom of the ranking. While the capital performed strongly on climate and green behaviour – it has the lowest proportion of residents commuting by private vehicle, and a high level of electric vehicle charging device provision – the city’s poor air quality was a key factor behind its position. 

The capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan has made tackling London’s toxic air a top priority, warning that the city faces a “public health crisis” caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads. Earlier this year Londoners were advised not to exercise outside due to “very high” levels of pollution.

READ MORE: How we made the Clean Cities Index

READ MORE: Get the latest data on your city

The Clean Cities Index was created following an extensive data project, drawing on data at ‘primary urban area’ level – a measure of the ‘built-up' area of a town or city, rather than individual local authority districts. More than 30 environmental indicators from external data points were compiled and weighted in order to provide a ranking of England’s cleanest – and dirtiest – urban areas.

Jamie Carpenter, editor of ENDS Report, said: “The Clean Cities Index is intended to start a debate about the state of the environment in our biggest towns and cities, and shine a spotlight on some of the wide environmental disparities that exist between them. 

“We need to ‘level up’ our cities so that all city dwellers, from Brighton to Burnley, and from Milton Keynes to Manchester, can enjoy a clean and green living environment. While we have seen welcome progress against some environmental indicators, this has not been uniform, and much more needs to be done.”

Visit our dedicated Clean Cities Index hub to view the full index, find out why Exeter topped the ranking, and explore an extensive range of environmental data for each city, as well as interactive maps and dashboards.