Friday, 5 August 2011

Who's to blame for rising air pollution? Greens pile pressure on Brighton and Hove Conservatives

London Road (Brighton) - Argus
Brighton and Hove Green Party released information to back up their claims that air pollution has risen in the city - by up to 40% between 2007 and 2010 - and that the policies of the previous Conservative administration over that period are to blame.

Earlier this week, the local Green Party website published links to publications that detail where the biggest rises in air pollution occurred:
"On 21 July Brighton & Hove City Council released its latest Air Quality Action Plan which contained the air quality figures for 2010. This can be viewed here: Air Quality Action Plan 2011 (page 23). These reveal an increase in traffic related air pollution across the city particularly in Nitrogen Dioxide which is the main pollutant measured. Comparing figures with earlier years contained in the preceding report air pollution has increased significantly. The 2010 report can be viewed here: 2010 Air Quality Progress report (page 24). Parts of Lewes Road for example have seen an increase of pollution levels from 52 ug/m (microgramme per cubic metre) to 74 between 2007 and 2010, a 40% increase in four years."
The website also pinpointed 2009 press statements by Ian Davey - who warned of rising levels of pollution - and Conservative Cabinet Member Geoffrey Theobold - who said transport planning measures had ensured continuing improvement in nitrogen dioxide levels citywide.

In the Brighton Argus of 19 May 2009, Ian Davey said air pollution levels were increasing in some areas. He said "the council is not solving the problem and it may be getting worse in some areas of the city". He said more effort was needed to get people to cycle and walk to work to school and work. [Recent data suggests much of our traffic originates from inside the city - and that a large proportion of car journeys to work are less then three miles long - ed].

Ian Davey suggested improving the cycle and walking network and a 20 mph limit as well as improvements to the bus network to ease the pressure on the number of buses passing through the city center. [These might include rapid transit links, and direct links between suburbs avoiding the city centre - ed.]

He added: “The Conservative administration needs to recognise that if you keep insisting on more car parking you will get more cars.”

Here is the response of the Conservative administration, quoted in here from the 2009 Argus article.
"Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, cabinet member for the environment, said in a statement that coverage of air quality was alarmist. He said: “I would recommend that your readers visit our city air watch website which is recognised as one of the best local authority air on the internet websites. Our air quality action plan is improving air quality ... The council recorded an improvement at more than 80% of its sites in 2008. Transport planning measures have ensured continuing improvement in nitrogen dioxide levels citywide.”
Nigel Jenkins, project development officer for the Sussex Air Quality Partnership, said there had been an overall improvement in air quality over the years which can be pinned down to a series of measures. He said: “The air quality in most cities in the UK is improving because there are European and UK driven initiatives that are reducing pollution across the board. In Brighton there is a very good bus system and generally there have been technological improvements with cleaner engines in cars. If we had the number of cars that we have today on the roads ten years ago the emissions would have been dirtier than they are today.”"
As regular readers of this blog know, the Conservative Administration 2007- 2010 cancelled several crucial elements of the Cycle Town network for safe cycling and attempted to repeal the city's commitment to sustainable transport - to replace it with policies in favor of the car.

We emailed Geoffrey Theobold to comment on this issue - but no reply so far.

For more information on why we should be concerned about rising levels of NO2 click here.
For more analysis of the Air Quality Action Plan, including graph of rising NO2 at several locations click here

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