Two roads to be removed from proposed clean air zone in Portsmouth to protect businesses

TWO of the city's busiest roads will not be included as part of a clean air zone as councillors warned local businesses also need to be protected.

Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 8:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th October 2020, 8:26 pm
The area of Portsmouth that was previously set to be a chargeable clean air zone before the removal of two roads. Picture: Portsmouth City Council

During a heated cabinet meeting debate on Tuesday (Oct 6) members of Portsmouth's Liberal Democrat administration came under fire for plans to axe Fratton Road and Kingston Crescent from a chargeable clean air zone that is set to be implemented next year.

It was ultimately ruled that the zone in the south west of the city would no longer include the roads, as well as the Fratton and Holbrook Road roundabouts, to help businesses and to focus on more 'permanent' air quality measures in those areas.

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Once the zone is in place non-compliant taxis, buses, coaches, heavy goods vehicles - and potentially vans - will have to pay to enter.

Speaking at the virtual meeting council leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'This is about a balancing act of trying to find the best thing for the environment and for local businesses.'

The need for the zone has been set by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) specifically to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Alfred Road and the Commercial Road junction with Church Street.

Cllr Dave Ashmore, the council's environment boss, explained funding for the zone would be pulled as soon as the areas reach compliance. 'The modelling shows that the zone would make those areas compliant by 2022,' he said.

'We don't want to be compliant for a couple of years for it to then be taken away. That's not going to make a cleaner Portsmouth.

'Fratton Road is currently being considered as part of the future high streets fund - that will include creating a low traffic neighbourhood, which is a much more permanent way of improving air quality and a much more holistic way of improving the road.'

Alterations to the zone were first suggested following a consultation with the public as well as taxi and bus drivers where more than 2,000 people responded.

But just 1.5 per cent of the survey's respondents asked for those roads to be excluded, while 39 per cent said the size of the zone should be increased.

Councillors from other parties expressed their 'disappointment.'

Cllr Claire Udy, leader of the Progressive Portsmouth People group said: You full well know that air quality in Kingston Road is illegal and Fratton Road is on the precipice of that.

'The majority of respondents have communicated that they are happy with the zone or would like it larger. Why have you cut it down? To say I’m grossly disappointed is a complete understatement.'

Cllr Judith Smyth, from the Labour group, added: 'I am at a loss at how and why the cabinet is considering reducing the site.'

Previously there had been confusion over the reasons for removing the two roads from the zone as Cllr Ashmore told The News the council would not receive the funding for them - however, this was in reference to a clean air zone to cover Portsea Island.

So far the council has received £4.3m from the government to implement their plan and £1.8m from the Clean Air Fund to mitigate the impacts of the zone.

A Defra spokesman confirmed it had not received a formal request to change the proposed boundaries of the Portsmouth zone.

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