Warning as Portsmouth’s air quality nears ‘unsafe levels’

Pollution from cars has the biggest effect on air quality
Pollution from cars has the biggest effect on air quality
Chancellor Philip Hammond holding his red ministerial box outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his Budget

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AIR pollution in Portsmouth is reaching an unsafe level.

That is the stark warning from Janet Maxwell, the director of public health at Portsmouth City Council.

Air pollution is a serious problem in Portsmouth.

Janet Maxwell

Dr Maxwell told the Portsmouth health overview and scrutiny panel that the city is moving too slowly when it comes to improving air quality.

She said: ‘Air pollution is a serious problem in Portsmouth.

‘The motorways, port and lorries are making the problem worse.

‘The council is doing a lot of work but reducing the number of cars is the only way to make radical differences.

‘We need to significantly reduce cars in the city.

‘We have the opportunity to make the island as car-free as possible so that the private car ownership becomes the thing of the past.

‘The city is very close to the European limit on air quality. We are at a level that is nearing unsafe. We are moving too slowly compared to other big cities.’

Air quality is tested using diffusion tubes set up around the city.

They read the air pollution levels in their immediate surrounding area but the data can be affected by other factors such as wind and topography.

Four times last year the air quality level exceeded the nitrogen dioxide guideline set by the government and the EU of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

These were recorded by the diffusion tubes in Lord Montgomery Way in Southsea, Stanley Road in Stamshaw, Kingston Road in Buckland and London Road in North End.

Roger Inkpen is a member of Portsmouth Cycle Forum.

He said: ‘I am aware of what’s happening in Portsmouth because although small schemes have encouraged people to cycle, there has been nothing big enough to make a real difference.

‘It is a concern and a discouragement to people that the air pollution is high.’

Councillor Luke Stubbs, cabinet member for public health on Portsmouth City Council, said there have been signs of improvements in some of the most congested areas of the city.

‘While recognising there are still problems in some localities, air pollution in Portsmouth is improving,’ he said.

‘The council is supportive of public transport and sustainable transport and we recognise it is not possible for everyone to drive into Portsmouth without creating massive congestion.

‘However the air quality is something that can be managed and the council has shown that it can manage the situation and improve in the most affected areas.’