Air quality management in the city

Air quality action plan

In 2013 Brighton & Hove City Council declared two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA maps below) for nitrogen dioxide. This required the council to write an Air Quality Action Plan as follows:

The Air Quality Action Plan focus area is considered in the Community Insight Report (PDF 1 MB). The Communities Insight Report compliments the Equalities Impact Assessment (PDF 65 KB) that considers the potential impacts the Air Quality Action Plan might have on protected groups. There is more information on Equalities Impact Assessments on our Equality pages.

Air quality annual status reports

Each year the Council presents and update on local air quality and the action plan with submission of the Annual Status Report to Department of the Environment. Recent ASR reports can be downloaded as follows:

Air monitoring results

2015 air monitoring results and trends:

  • Five years automatic analysers (PDF 196KB) shows trends in nitrogen dioxide concentrations at monitoring stations adjacent to North Street and Lewes Road, Brighton and compares with results from Preston Park, Brighton which belongs to the UK national monitoring network.
  • Diffusion Tube Table (MS excel 20KB) the table ranks diffusion tube results by 2016 concentrations for a wide geographical area that includes Central Brighton, Hove, Portslade and Rottingdean.

The council declared a new Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) (PDF 239KB) on 30 August 2013. The new AQMA is a quarter the size of the previous one. The council is developing a renewed 2014 air quality action plan targeting this area and welcomes views and constructive suggestions. You can also download the legal AQMA document for further information (PDF 3.7MB).

Continuous analysis of outdoor air shows improvement in nitrogen dioxide. Improvements are recorded at the majority of monitoring locations including those at roadside. In combination with source reductions in particulate, lead, benzene and carbon monoxide, it is likely that where many people live the air inhaled is more healthy than past dacades.

Monitoring at some city centre roadside sites in the AQMA suggests that current nitrogen dioxide concentrations are similar to 2002 with improvements since 2010 and 2013. At a number of roadside locations, nitrogen dioxide concentrations have not changed on those recorded 15 years ago. Concentrations continue to be recorded above the nitrogen dioxide legal limit within nine metres (30 feet) of confined roads in parts of Brighton and Portslade. Recent monitoring suggests compliance is within the limit in Rottingdean but this needs to be confirmed with 2016 and 2017 monitoring results.

Travel and transport

The Air Quality Action Plan relates to the Local Transport Plan and has joint interest  to initiate a low emission strategy (LEZ). The 2015 bus LEZ covers North Street, Churchill Square and Western Road. We have won funding from department of transport and is investing over one million pounds in the retrofit of older buses in order to target emissions of oxides of nitrogen.

The air quality action plan will promote alternatives to diesel in the new management area for example methane and electric vehicle use and influence local planning policies regarding the massing and position and use of buildings. The Environmental Protection Team consults on planning applications and air quality is a material consideration for the planning process.

There has been impressive progress in providing travel choice in the city including a doubling in bus patronage in the past 20 years and increase in active travel such as cycling and walking. However a number of other measures require implementation if the EU and English limits for nitrogen dioxide are to be met. The use of electrical vehicles in Brighton & Hove has increased in recent years, but this category remains a small contribution to local transport. The local bus company has secured funds for electrical hybrid buses. Vehicles with exhaust retrofits and regenerative breaking are now in daily operation.

Local air quality management reports

Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) reports for the Department of the Environment (DEFRA) must be produced on regular basis. This is one of the council's statutory duties required under part IV of the Environment Act 1995.

Where specific airborne pollutant standards are exceeded local authorities have to designate these geographical areas as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs).

Monitoring and assessment of local air quality can found in the Brighton & Hove's Air Quality Progress Report 2014 (PDF 3.1MB).

The 2012 Updating Screening and Assessment provides a comprehensive review of the state of air quality in the city. It can be downloaded as our Air Quality Progress Report 2014 (PDF 3 MB) follows:

The 2012 Detailed Assessment provides a technical appraisal for two areas adjacent to the existing Air Quality Management Area; Preston Road and Rottingdean. Download the report and appendices:

Our 2011 air quality action plan includes a comprehensive set of measures and recommendations aimed at improving air quality in the city and presents monitoring results for 2010.

Get information on LAQM reports for previous years

Particulates in the city

PM10s are fine airborne particles (less than ten microns). When inhaled the microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs. Fine particles in the air can travel long distances between regions, that said emissions from local diesel engines have some influence on location concentrations.

In 2013 concentration on North Street close to the Ship Street junction were monitored close to 26 µg/m3. Three days (24-hour average) had concentrations > 50 µg/m3. These monitoring results are based on 90.8% data capture through the calendar year. From 2014/15 particulate matter less than 2.5 microns is monitored at North Street and Lewes Road in Brighton and results will be valuable to assess the health impacts of local air pollution. PM2.5 shows an improving trend in Preston Park.  Slightly higher levels are recorded on North Street.

Nitrogen dioxide in the city

During recent years up to 2015 concentrations remain above the legal limit at some certain roadside locations: in Brighton, parts of Portslade and Rottingdean High Street.

The problem of nitrogen dioxide is similar to other small cities with historical centres such as York, Oxford and Cambridge. It is also comparable with Portsmouth, Reading, Nottingham and Sheffield. With a population approaching half a million the Brighton-Worthing conurbation is one of the least industrialised in Europe (in terms of large combustion processes and factories). It has been certain for more than a decade that poorer air quality in Brighton is dominated by near ground level emissions and local transport sources. Due to economy and transport policies some local road counters show a decline in total traffic tallies between 2008 and 2012. Levels of nitrogen dioxide have not improved in some places near roads due to the following contributory factors:

  • A higher proportion of diesel vehicles that show a lack of real-world performance improvement in emissions of nitrogen dioxide
  • Diesel particulate filters that can become clogged with soot following repetitive urban driving
  • Exhaust traps designed to mitigate particles can emit additional nitrogen dioxide from the tail pipe
  • Older petrol vehicles with catalytic converters that perform less well with time
  • Internal combustion engine and emission abatement technologies that are not suited to; stop-start mileage, congested intersections, intermittent acceleration and sharp hill climbs
  • Narrow street ways that are less favourable for dispersion of emissions and entrainment of fresher ventilation from open spaces such as parks and the sea
  • Eddie and wake effects sometimes resulting in slower flow of wind one or two city blocks inland from the sea front
  • A  seasonal pattern in ambient nitrogen dioxide points to a lack of vertical dispersion above the street in the wintertime
  • A recorded decline in regional background pollutant levels emphasis the importance of local road traffic emissions

The most concentrated pollution is not always found adjacent to the highest volumes of traffic. Road intersections and enclosed streets have a limited spatial capacity before air quality is likely to become an issue. Relatively few vehicles with modest emissions totals can cause long term ambient nitrogen dioxide concentrations to exceed legal target levels in confined spaces. Most of these urban street environments have very high population density with considerable retail activity and associated frequent pedestrian foot fall.