9 May 2016

City’s air quality improving

Air quality in some of Brighton & Hove’s most polluted locations is improving, according to new council figures.

The authority currently monitors air quality at 60 locations around the city. At present the five worst roadsides are North Street/Western Road, Lewes Road, London Road/Valley Gardens, New England Road and Queen’s Road/Terminus Road. 

Emissions from road vehicles are the biggest source of local pollution.

Of particular interest to environmental health officers is nitrogen dioxide which can cause reduced lung function, inhibit lung growth and contribute to the risk of bronchitis - especially in young children and the elderly.

Nitrogen dioxide rates in the most polluted areas have declined in the past three years as follows (monitoring location in brackets):  

North Street/Western Road (near Ship Street) 21% reduction since 2012
Queen’s Road/Terminus Road (Terminus Road) 20% reduction since 2012
New England Road (West of Preston Circus) 15% reduction since 2012
Lewes Road (South of the Vogue Gyratory) 14% reduction since 2012
London Road/Valley Gardens, (Cheapside Junction) 3% reduction since 2012

Officials say the decline in nitrogen dioxide could be a result of cleaner buses and a higher use of sustainable travel choices in and around the city centre.  Cleaner electricity generation and heating systems also play their part in working towards cleaner air, says the council.

Weather can have an effect - cold conditions correlate with higher nitrogen dioxide, because this can adversely affect exhaust systems designed to stop pollution. 

While nitrogen dioxide levels have improved across the Greater Brighton area the council says roadside pollution in the worst areas still breaches UK and EU legal limits for health protection.

In addition to the central areas mentioned above, nitrogen dioxide continues to be close the UK and EU limits at specific roadside sites at Wellington Road and Trafalgar Road, Portslade and in Rottingdean High Street.

To comply, further reductions of around one third in nitrogen dioxide levels would be required on North Street and London Road, for example.  

Bus companies operating in the city are gradually upgrading their fleets with less-polluting vehicles.  Brighton & Hove Buses will soon have phased out all of its old Euro 3 emission standard vehicles.  Just over a year ago it was running around 100 of these.  Meanwhile it is spending millions on the highest-standard Euro 6 buses and converting other vehicles to lower-emission technology.  Cuckmere Buses, and Stagecoach are investing in cleaner vehicles.

Government grants secured by the council are helping the Sussex Bus company to retrofit cleaner emissions technology on twelve buses which travel on routes in central Brighton.

Chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee Cllr Gill Mitchell says  “We’re heading in the right direction but the journey is by no means complete.  We need to make further improvements by using less-polluting travel modes and less-polluting vehicles.  The bus companies continuing to make improvements to their fleets will bring much better air.  The council has won grants totalling about £1.5m in recent years to help them do this and we’ll keep doing all we can to deliver cleaner air for the city.”

More detailed information on the city’s air quality is on the council’s website