Brighton and Hove misses out on cash to cut pollution as government relies on air quality meter in park
The government has turned down a bid for £1.7 million to spend on cutting dangerously high pollution levels in Brighton and Hove.
The decision was made based on readings taken from an air quality meter in the middle of a park.
Councillor Gill Mitchell, the deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, has written to the city’s three MPs urging them to raise the issue with ministers.
The bid was rejected by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) after it changed the focus from local authority data on air quality to “national” results.
The council monitors air quality in pollution hotspots such as North Street and Western Road but the only Defra monitoring station in the area is in the middle of Preston Park. Perhaps unsurprisingly it shows the council to be “compliant” with air quality standards.
There is another Defra monitoring station in Worthing because Brighton to Littlehampton forms a zone for the purposes of measuring air quality.
Councillor Mitchell said that the £1.7 million joint bid from the council and bus operators would have helped fund clean air technology for 95 buses. This is on top of the 76 buses and 22 taxis already fitted.
She has written to Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas and Hove MP Peter Kyle asking the to raise the matter with the government.
In her letter she said: “I would be pleased if you could draw ministers’ attention to these basic problems with the national air quality model that are now potentially excluding Brighton and Hove from accessing funding, not just from Defra but possibly the DfT (Department for Transport) and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles grants to the value of many millions.
“We have improved air quality in the city by making full use of the grants we have received for cleaner vehicles and firmer evidence and have plans to do more.
“According to our monitoring data for North Street and Western Road in Brighton, lower-emission buses have had a sizeable effect over the last five years on the quality of the air that we breathe, bringing us closer to legal limits. But there is a lot more to do.”
Councillor Mitchell believes that a monitoring station in the middle of a park cannot fully represent the air quality throughout the city.
She said: “By only monitoring the results of just these two stations (Preston Park and Worthing), the national assessment is not presenting a representative picture of air quality in the city and classifies us as ‘compliant’ even though we have two established Air Quality Management Areas demonstrating local exceedances.
“Defra is now focusing on its national model and assessment results and not on local evidence provided by local authorities.
“We are fearful that the government has, in effect, dropped the Brighton-Worthing-Littlehampton agglomeration from its National Air Quality Action Plan.”