Dirty old town – Brighton’s polluted roads to blame for 2,000 deaths, new report says

Posted On 18 Jul 2017 at 4:11 pm

More than 2,000 people will die of causes related to air pollution over the next 12 years – much of it generated on Brighton and Hove’s traffic-choked roads.

The bold claim was made in a new report – Polluted Cities – commissioned by Green MEP and former Brighton councillor Keith Taylor and published yesterday (Monday 17 July).

At a public meeting at the Brighthelm Centre to mark publication of the report Mr Taylor criticised the government’s plan to tackle the problem as inadequate.

He said: “The government is standing idly by while the city chokes. This feeble plan won’t go anywhere near far enough in tackling a public health emergency that is linked to 175 deaths in the city every year.

“Dirty air affects us all but the impacts are not felt evenly, especially in Brighton and Hove.

“You’re far more likely to suffer if you’re young or old and/or if you live in poverty.

“The plan put before the British people isn’t so much a plan but a plan to have a plan. Half measures are not good enough in Brighton and Hove. We need bold action now.”

Other speakers were Brighton University academic Kirsty Smallbone and Healthy Air campaigner Andrea Lee, working with environmental lawyers Client Earth.

Mr Taylor said that almost half of the sites monitored for air quality levels in Brighton and Hove were currently exceeding the EU legal limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution.

The report said that of 65 sites reported on across the city, half (32) exceed the legal limit of 40 micrograms of NO2 per square metre.

And nine sites had annual averages of over 50 micrograms of NO2 per square metre – or 125 per cent of the legal limit.

The areas of experiencing the worst NO2 pollution include North Street and the Clock Tower (91.9 micrograms per square metre – or 230 per cent of the limit), London Road near Oxford Street (75.7 micrograms per square metre – or 189 per cent of the limit), and; Cheapside near Pelham Street (61.3 micrograms per square metre – or 153 per cent of the limit).

Keith Taylor at the Brighton University air quality monitoring station

NO2 is just one of the two primary air pollutants linked to road vehicles.

Cities across the UK are also breaching safe levels of dangerous particulate matter (PM) pollution, the really small bits of various materials easily absorbed by human tissue.

PM pollution is linked to 29,000 deaths in Britain every year, Mr Taylor said.

Earlier on Monday, Dr Smallbone and her colleague Kevin Wyche, a founding member of the University of Brighton Air Environment Research (AER) Team, showed Mr Taylor around the university’s new groundbreaking and part-EU funded air quality monitoring station.

The MEP for South East England said that Dr Smallbone and Dr Wyche were pushing the boundaries of particulate matter pollution analysis with their research into ultrafine particles.

These tiny particles are not currently required to be measured or recorded yet have some of the most damaging health impacts due to their ability to penetrate deep into the body.

Keith Taylor at the Brighton University air quality monitoring station with Kevin Wyche, Kirsty Smallbone and Brighton University vice-chancellor Professor Debra Humphris

Dr Smallbone, head of the School of Environment and Technology at the University of Brighton, said: “We have relatively accurate models for NO2 but the models for particulates are lagging behind.

“Unless you know what the cocktail of pollutants in the air is like, and consider more than just NO2, you don’t really have a sense of the extent of the problem.

“The data from Brighton University allows real time information to be accessed, and is enhancing our understanding of the harmful air pollutants we breathe.”

The Polluted Cities report is careful not just to attack the government for its inaction on the issue but also outline Mr Taylor and the Green Party’s plans to tackle the air quality crisis in the city and beyond.

Proposals for Brighton and Hove include

  • Encouraging alternatives to diesel vehicle use
  • Introducing differential parking charges for diesel vehicles parking in the worst polluted areas of the city
  • More assistance for taxi drivers to replace their diesel vehicles
  • Better enforcement of engine idling regulations

Mr Taylor, a member of the European Parliament’s Environment and Transport Committees, said: “Clean air isn’t a luxury, it’s a basic human right. All around Britain, in our towns and cities, people live and work while breathing in dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution.

“As Greens, we support an air pollution plan that would truly tackle this emergency – and force car companies to pay their way for the damage they have done to people’s health.

“Half measures are not good enough. We urgently need bold action and this report sets out what we can and should be doing now.”

  1. Benny Reply

    The most pollution from vehicles comes when engines are idling – as in a queue. The council has overtly pursued a policy of slowing down traffic over years. I fear the department responsible for roads has no technical knowledge at all.

    After the odd introduction of partial bus lanes at Rottingdean, the queues have trebled – pollution goes up.

    The polluted clock tower area is banned for private vehicles.

    • Lame Brain Greens Reply

      The Council pursued a policy of deliberating slowing down traffic in the misguided assumption that it would lead car drivers to switch to public transport. Well, what do you know, the assumption is flawed and the biggest casualty is US, breathing in air pollution created by this wishful thinking.

      • Roy Jago Reply

        As North Street is one of the worst for pollution then it must be by too many buses.

    • Simon Ballard Reply

      Agree totally, Benny. Those bus lanes just cause more queues. Brighton’s traffic standstill is the most awful anywhere I’ve been. Surely it must be of urgent importance to get it moving again? Getting rid of half the blasted traffic lights would be a start – I know of no other place with so many.

    • Christopher Dovey Reply

      private cars are not banned from the clock tower area. can go up West Street into Queens Road and the opposite direction. also turn left up dyke road from West street. from 8pm to 8 am can also go western road straight down north street or dyke road or Queens Road and up north street to Queens Rd dyke Rd western Rd

  2. Green Menace Reply

    You can lay this at the door of former councilor and all round bad guy IAN Davey. From the millions squandered on the barely used Old Shoreham Rd cycle lane to the farce that is the Vogue Gyratory on the Lewes Rd a after the ‘Green improvements’. Their plan all along has been to introduce congestion charging but having made such a hash of running the city they were unsurprisingly chucked out of power. Let us hope that the families who have lost people will sue those directly responsible. Sweet dreams IAN 😄

  3. radu Reply

    The city needs synchronised traffic lights to keep traffic moving no parking so people are just driving around faster and easyer.

  4. CAM Reply


    • karl marx is my guy Reply

      relaxs man smoke some weed, no need for the captials

  5. Jo Reply

    Why blame public transport? Yes there are a lot of buses but the real problem is the thousands of individual car owners burning fuel engines to run errands or pop up the road. There are people who are truely reliant on cars for independence but for the majority it’s a convenience. Public transport is a better solution than everyone having 1 car each and roaming around Brighton looking for a parking space and clogging up the bus routes.

  6. G Anderson Reply

    Taxis. So many! Buses should all be greener. Traffic lights synchronised and not so many. Stop 🛑 penalising the diesel car owner. Bought as a suggestion by the government for economy and less pollution

  7. karl marx is my guy Reply

    the true problem here is capitalism, lets be realistic #bring back communism

  8. Mr Noot spliff Reply

    the true problem is vegans

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