Annual report shows city’s air quality is improving

While a wide range of factors contribute to yearly fluctuations, the long term trend shows continuous improvement overall, with some parts of the designated Air Quality Management Areas now compliant with levels set out in the Government’s Air Quality Strategy (AQS) for England. 

The 2019 Air Quality Status Report shows that air quality in the city is continuously improving with significant improvement in the Lewes Road Corridor over the past year. The report also highlights that over the long term pollutant levels in the Valley Gardens area are steadily improving. 

Air quality management 

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the biggest contributor to poor air quality in the city and largely comes from road transport emissions. For the last year Brighton & Hove City Council is compliant with all pollutants listed in the AQS, with the exception of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The city first declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for NO2 in 2004. This included Preston Circus, the Vogue Gyratory and London Road through Valley Gardens to the Pavilion. The two existing AQMAs for NO2 were declared in 2013 and include Brighton & Hove Centre connected with Sackville Road and South Portslade. Rottingdean Village has its own AQMA.

Investing in sustainable transport

The council has made great strides to reduce the adverse impacts of transport on its air quality including: 

  • the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone for buses covering North Street
  • securing significant levels of funding to retro-fit the city’s bus fleet supporting further progress towards Ultra Low emission vehicles
  • investing in electric vehicle infrastructure which will see 200 electric vehicle charging points installed in residential areas this year and the development of electric hubs with rapid charging facilities for taxis
  • developing cycling and walking infrastructure, creating 38km of cycle lanes and providing better connected cycling and walking routes through the city centre
  • displaying signage across the city centre to discourage engine idling at key junctions and taxi ranks
  • working with schools to raise awareness and encourage behavioural change to the use of sustainable travel by children and their carers’ and to prevent idling outside school gates

Putting health and wellbeing first

Health and wellbeing is a key objective of the council’s Local Transport Plan which has seen continued investment in sustainable active travel. The promotion of active travel provides people with alternative travel options for some journeys, especially short ones, which can help avoid emissions where many live. Brighton & Hove is one of the UK’s least car dependent cities and one third of city residents do not own a car. In the central AQMA this rises to two thirds. Nearly twice as many people walk to work compared with the rest of the UK while bus use is the highest in the country outside of London.

Urgently addressing climate change

The council has declared a climate emergency and is seeking to significantly reduce its carbon impacts by 2030 and build resilience against the effects of climate change. No emission travel is a key component to helping us achieve this.

Developing a sustainable Local Transport Plan

Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, Councillor Anne Pissaridou, said: “It is encouraging to see that air quality in some parts of the city is improving and over the long term there have been consistent reductions in pollution levels. We have been working hard to reduce emissions by investing in sustainable travel and public transport, developing electric vehicle infrastructure and encouraging behavioural change.

“However, we can’t afford to be complacent and as this report reminds us, the biggest contributor to poor air quality in our city comes from road traffic emissions. The health and wellbeing of our residents is paramount, as is protecting the local environment and mitigating the impacts of climate change as a matter of urgency. Further reductions in vehicle emissions, particularly nitrogen dioxide, are therefore essential if we are to improve the city’s air quality.

“Over the coming year, as we develop the next Local Transport Plan, we will be exploring options to progress these measures further including reviewing traffic movement in the city centre, developing a Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and moving ahead with key developments including Valley Gardens.” 

How you can help improve air quality

There are lots of ways residents can help to improve the city’s air for everyone. Here are some examples:

  • Give your car time off; walk, cycle or scooter to school, work and leisure
  • Use public transport. The city’s bus fleet is investing in cleaner buses every year and new trains will use less electricity
  • Go electric. This year we’re installing 200 electric vehicle charging points across the city, making it easier to recharge an electric car or van. Consider switching to electric today.
  • Don’t idle your engine. If you do have to drive, you can help by turning off your engine when your vehicle is stationary and it is safe to do so
  • Don’t park in the vicinity of the school gates. If driving your child is the only option, why not park a little way from the school? You could also start to car share which will save money on fuel, while also reducing emissions and congestion outside schools at peak times.
  • Use clean home heating without burning coal or wood in open fireplaces; consider replacing of old boilers for ground or air source heat pumps