People power needed to help Portsmouth beat its air pollution problem, council says

Traffic builds up in London Road, North End
Traffic builds up in London Road, North End
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CITY transport chiefs have said the people of Portsmouth need to play their part in reducing pollution and improving air quality.

The plea comes as a report by Portsmouth City Council revealed pollution levels had been cut in the past year – but that more work was still needed.

Only one area in the city now exceeds government-set levels of harmful nitrogen dioxide emitted through exhaust fumes, down from three in the previous year.

Figures show overall air quality has worsened over five years, but critically standards haven’t dipped below Defra’s baseline.

However, in the past 12 months there have been significant improvements recorded, with two-thirds of the island’s 28 monitor stations showing cleaner air compared to 11 per cent the year before.

The only area to still be below par is the London Road corridor, in North End, which saw an eight per cent spike in the levels of nitrogen dioxide.

Transport bosses say this is due to the area’s ‘unique design’, with high buildings on either side of the road that don’t allow fumes to disperse as easily as elsewhere.

The council has a number of options in place to continue its work to improve air quality, but said ‘small changes’ by residents could help.

Richard Lee, the authority’s regulatory services manager, said the city was close to reaching its air quality goals and is urging people to use alternate ways of getting around.

He said: ‘We’re aware we have got to do better and we have got to tackle this problem.

‘We’re very close to our objective so small changes can make a massive difference.’

Traffic exhaust fumes account for about half of the air quality issues in areas.

About 16 per cent of all car trips across the city are less than two miles. The council is looking to change people’s attitude and urge those making short journeys to walk, cycle or use public transport instead.

Overseeing this will be a new air quality action panel, made up of health, planning and transport officials, supported by air quality steering groups.

Councillor Dave Ashmore, city environment boss, said: ‘While Portsmouth isn’t one of the worst offenders for air quality, it isn’t something we can take for granted. We take the air quality in the city very seriously and work is under way to try and make improvements and ensure the city is the best environment possible for people to live, work and visit.’

Portsmouth has five air quality management areas.

It used to have 13 until 2010 when air quality levels improved and the other eight were cut.