ALARMING figures show air pollution levels are above Government targets, sparking calls for action from environmental activists.

Analysis from Friends of the Earth found that the area surrounding Prince Avenue, Westcliff, recorded an average level of nitrogen dioxide of 45.2 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

The average must be below 40 to meet government air quality targets.

Jon Fuller, spokesman for South East Essex Friends of the Earth, said: “This figures are concerning and it shows the issue needs action and to be looked at.

“This seriously impacts people’s health and practically children who’s lungs are developing and air pollution impacts them and staying with them.

“It’s vital authorities stop paying lip service and we need dramatic action to stop traffic in this area.”

The figures relate to 2018, the latest year for which data is available.

Tony Cox, leader of the Southend Tories said: “Work around this must involve keeping traffic moving and congestion to a minimum. Having more electric vehicles will also help us to reduce the pollution levels too.”

According to Friends of the Earth, road traffic is the leading cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution, which can inflame the lining of the lungs and reduce immunity to infections such as bronchitis.

Nationally, 1,360 sites failed to meet the 40 micrograms target in 2018.

Although this was down from 1,591 the previous year, Friends of the Earth said the figure was still shocking.

Conservative councillor Alex Bright added: “Reducing our negative impact on the environment is of vital importance. Improving air quality is a crucial factor in achieving this in Southend-on-Sea.”

“The data from 2018 measured on Prince Avenue is concerning. It shows that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to bring our poor air quality under control. That is why, in 2017, the Government declared an Air Quality Management Area along this stretch of the A127, which led to the Council appointing an Air Quality Specialist and the adoption of an Air Quality Action Plan.”

In Castle Point, the audit found no sites in Castle Point where the average level of nitrogen dioxide exceeded 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.

The Government recently announced plans to boost cycling and walking.