OPINION

We urgently need a Clean Air Zone – here’s how you can help

Posted On 17 Apr 2022 at 12:01 am

Living next to the sea and surrounded by national park, you might think that Brighton and Hove is either immune, already protected or suffers only minimal levels of air pollution. But you would be wrong.

The most recently available official Air Quality Annual Status Report for our city shows the results of air quality monitors for the lockdown year of 2020.

Unfortunately, the data shows that our city, in 2020, still experienced a yearly average of the air pollutant nitrogen dioxide that violated UK legal limits on several roads and at levels that can seriously harm health.

Incredibly, illegal levels of air pollution existed during a year when the number of miles driven on our roads reduced by over 20 per cent when compared with 2019 and when, for extended times of the year, we were locked down and hardly drove.

Spacewords Brighton

The good news is that air quality throughout 2020 did improve at all monitors.

Some areas saw large improvements in air quality but other areas experienced only very minor improvements.

For example, air pollution in North Street and London Road, despite monitoring results showing that it was still above UK legal limits, reduced by 37 per cent and 31 per cent respectively, and Marlborough Place, by the Valley Gardens, reduced by 40 per cent.

However, only very small reductions in air pollution levels were recorded in Grand Parade opposite North Road, the A259 in Portslade and Hollingdean Road – 3 per cent, 3 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.

xmas collections

UK legal limits are not as stringent nor as up to date as World Health Organisation guideline limits. North Street, for instance, was five times more polluted in 2020 than those WHO guideline limits.

The unfortunate news is that those reductions in pollution levels are very likely to have been only temporary because traffic seems to have returned to levels seen in 2019.

The majority of the pollution found in the most polluted locations of our city, usually next to our busy roads and high streets, where the nitrogen dioxide levels are highest, is emitted from vehicles running on diesel or petrol.

Of these vehicles, it is the 10 per cent most polluting and older vehicles that are responsible for somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent of the pollution.

This small number of vehicles – responsible for such a large proportion of the pollution – are often owned privately, including by businesses. They are the easy wins that we should be concentrating on when looking to improve air quality.

A 2020 study estimated that up to 48 per cent of asthma cases in Barcelona were caused by air pollution. Studies like these help to highlight how much disease air pollution causes.

Fourteen per cent of us in Brighton and Hove have had asthma diagnosed – and a large number of those are likely to have the condition because of the dirty air in our city.

It is so important for our health to reduce air pollution. Dirty air also has strong links to lung cancer, CPOD, heart disease, developmental problems in children, strokes, diabetes, dementia and shorter lives.

Those exposed to the most air pollution are those living, working or studying near these busy roads and those walking, cycling and even driving on these routes.

A Clean Air Zone, also known as an Ultra Low Emission Zone, focuses on the 10 per cent dirtiest and most polluting of vehicles, with other vehicles entirely unaffected.

An independent report recommended a zone covering the whole of Brighton and Hove but would exempt residents until 2030, along with exemptions for other groups.

Clean Air Zones allow for government funding to set up the scheme and provide money for residents to receive cash for scrapping dirty vehicles, helping them upgrade to cleaner models and funding zero-emission public transport.

Picture by Rufa A-zade / Wikimedia / Creative Commons

Those dirty vehicles would still be allowed to drive through the city but would be charged a small fee, possibly around £8 as in Birmingham, or about the cost of a day bus pass for two.

The Clean Air Zone, a government scheme to improve air quality, legally requires any profits to be spent on improvements that would clean up the air.

What are the 10 per cent of vehicles that produce so much pollution? Petrol vehicles older than about 2003 and diesel vehicles older than 2015, but with likely exemptions for local residents.

For as long as these older polluting vehicles remain on our roads, high levels of pollution, along with individual stories of air pollution-related disease, will always exist in our city.

I am asking people to support a strong and effective Clean Air Zone to target all our highly polluted and illegally polluted roads and improve air quality and health for everyone in our city.

I feel our city should be a healthy place to live, work and play. Such a small percentage of our vehicles shouldn’t be allowed to cause so much ill health when the tools exist to make improvements.

We also need to provide financial tools to help those who have dirty vehicles to upgrade them.

A Clean Air Zone does all these things. You can tell the council you want clean air by signing the petition for a Clean Air Zone here.

A Clean Air Zone is the most effective tool our council has to improve air quality. Air pollution in Brighton and Hove and the poor health outcomes of many is a solvable problem and we should have a plan as a matter of urgency.

Adrian Hill is an air quality campaigner who lives in Brighton.

  1. Rob Reply

    Yes please, I’d like some clean air, Lewes Road is too polluted! London seems a lot better than it used to be with the ULEZ.

  2. Dean Reply

    Most of the pollution comes from the buses, especially Lewes road, north street and London Road.

    • Adrian Hill Reply

      Buses are responsible for a large proportion of air pollution on many of Brighton & Hove’s roads however so are diesel cars & taxis, HGVs / LGVs, you can see this in the 2020 Detailed AQ assessment. A Clean Air Zone / extended ULEZ would help regulate all motor vehicle emissions, including buses.
      NO2 sources for some locations violating UK limits are available from the Detailed Air Quality Assessment 2020:
      Lewes Rd gyratory – Diesel Car & Taxi 33%, Bus 25%, HGV & LGV 15%
      Hollingbury Rd (nr Lewes Rd) – Diesel Car & Taxi 50%, HGV & LGV 13%, Bus 3%
      London Road – Bus 39%, Diesel Car & Taxi 20%, HGV & LGV 19%
      New England Road – Diesel Car & Taxi 49%, HGV & LGV 14%, bus 4%
      North Street – Bus 63%, Diesel Car & Taxi 11%, HGV & LGV 7%
      Viaduct Rd – Diesel Car & Taxi 44%, HGV & LGV 21%, Bus 4%

      • Gunner265 Reply

        My diesel car is far cleaner than most petrol cars. Yet petrol cars are exempt from the charge. Unfortunately I need my vehicle for work and I’m also disabled so rely on it heavily. I drive 50 miles a day to and from Eastbourne. No public transport to get me too and from work as I start and finish at before or after public transport has shut down. This will just be a nail in the coffin for some. Ether give up work, give up. Your car, or move out of the city. Who can afford the £400 a month for an electric car? Ordinary people and disabled being priced of the road.

        • Adrian Hill Reply

          Exemptions for disabled drivers exist in all the existing Clean Air Zones / ULEZs around the country; you will be exempted. Also, the independent report recommended a zone suggesting all residents will be exempted until 2030. For balance air pollution causes disability through disease; lung disease, heart disease and others. This doesn’t restrict anyone from driving anywhere nor forces anyone to upgrade to an electric car.

      • Harold Reply

        What you have to remember though is that buses are taking far more people to and from their places of work, social activities and schools than cars are. Whilst not always full, buses will have anything from 10-80 people on dependant on a number of factors such as time and direction of travel. Even though buses are a large factor of emissions, they are also in number, especially in North Street and Lewes Road meaning they are a greener solution to having an extra 10-80 cars on the road per bus. Whilst this may be better, it would be far better and like GoAhead wants to, invest in both hydrogen and electric vehicles offering no emissions at all.

        This scheme that you suggest though isn’t perhaps well thought for small businesses or self employed traders who already have high costs and simply can’t afford to purchase or hire brand new clean vehicles.

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    I’m sure on attending a meeting around the Hanover LTN the council have ruled out a ULEZ on the grounds that the cost would never even be closed to being recouped. It is a hugely costly scheme to consult on and then set up and by the time that happens the electric car will really be in it’s ascendency and could make the whole thing obsolete. This was just an officers view but it sounded like they had given up exploring it.

    • Rob Reply

      My neighbour has a 27 year old diesel that produces a nice black cloud of smoke whenever he drives off in the morning. We need help to upgrade, or his and other vans like will be on the road for years. Norway has done well and offers help, we are doing badly! Just looked up Bristol and they are giving £6000 to van owners. Searched Birmingham and they expect to make a profit, London too. Looks good if done in same way, don’t see why it would be different here.

      • Some Guy Reply

        Why do drivers expect free money to upgrade? Just change the MOT rules and all those clapped out bangers should be off the road in about two years.

        • les Reply

          Why should drivers scrap their vehicles, adding to landfill, when they can hold on to them for longer? Carrots and sticks. Beware those who make laws or policies who default to sticks.

          • Pam

            those vehicles are defective. The carrot is better health and less disease.

          • Local Trades

            @Pam – my car is from the 1990s and every MOT comes up very low emissions. Age is nothing to do with pollution. Many newer vehicles are much higher pollution than mine. Maintenance is more important than age.

            I would love to have an electric car, but just don’t have that kind of money available. Too many of these policies are set by the rich. These are people who buy and replace cars every few years – that is more of a waste!

    • ST Reply

      Why is the focus of this article entirely on motor vehicles as polluters? In my road the worst pollution comes from wood burning stoves. Sometimes in the evenings the air is so thick with the smoke that you cannot leave the windows open. This is particularly true for loft extension rooms and almost every house has one now.

      • richard Reply

        I own an events company, these caz zones work from midnight to midnight, suppliers are niche industry they don’t have budgets for 150,000 trucks. The typical caz charge is £100 per truck, events that’s £200 per night on the install and £200 per night on the derig.

        An event takes on average 40 trucks. Whether it’s a band playing at a music event, a marathon, a cylce race, an exhibition.

        I’ve got from 20 events a year in Manchester to zero. Organisers say it’s just not viable to put on an outdoor event. Especially those that are free to enter and often draw in thousands of tourists.

        Trucks are typically life cycled, these cazs are not needed, especially Brighton. Where most pollution will come from sea traffic with the wind.

        This is a tax against small business, sole traders and indirectly residents to fuel wastage and incompetent local authority spending.

        • Rob Reply

          It sounds like you’ve got some pretty nasty and polluting vehicles. I wouldn’t want your events in my city.

  4. Andrew Reply

    The MD of Brighton & Hove Buses told Brighton Area Buswatch this week that by the end of 2022 virtually all their buses should meet the Euro VI standard. That is the standard required for a ULEZ, as in London which should lead to a further substantial reduction in overall emissions in Brighton & Hove.

  5. sd Reply

    We need free bus travel for all council tax payers – that would cut some car journeys.

    • mart Burt Reply

      And who is going to pay the running costs ?

  6. Stephanie J Reply

    The areas he is talking about with the pollution are restricted to all the vehicles that he is proposing fining. They need to sort out the buses and taxes as only these vehicles are allowed into roads such as North Street and a lot of London Road.

    • Harold Reply

      It’s easier said than done. You don’t realise how much money emission free buses cost. Even the newest ones which are only emission free in the LEZ had £300,000 invested into each one.. without decent grants and support from councils and the government bus companies simply can not afford to upgrade their entire fleets. Tunbridge Wells Arriva for example still has buses built in 2002 driving around. So, unless you want to see sharp bus fare increases i think you need to be more patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day..

    • mart Burt Reply

      Stephanie J
      They need to sort out the buses and taxes as only these vehicles are allowed into roads such as North Street and a lot of London Road.
      Utter rubbish !!!
      You’re aware there’s a car park in North Street in King’s Place yes?
      Access from Windsor and Portland Streets, so not restricted to Buses and Taxis as you wrongly say.
      London Road, again you wrongly say restricted to buses and Taxi’s, last time I was down that way, cars were travelling from St Peters place all the way up the London Road, in fact, I sat on a bus at the traffic lights by St Peters church for three turns of the lights due to ‘Cars’ queuing to go up the London Road.
      Perhaps if you visited these areas you’d know…

  7. Adrian Hill Reply

    it’s more about whether the vehicle is in that list of highly polluting list; the 10% most polluting list. The Clean Air Zone would regulate buses and taxis though.

    • mart Burt Reply

      Adrian Hill
      Most of the Buses conform to Euro 6 regulations, are electric or have had kits fitted to bring them down to the required level or better.

  8. Local Trades Reply

    >North Street, for instance, was five times more polluted in 2020 than those WHO guideline limits.

    Ah – North Street. One of those Green redesign successes that put all the bus stops into the road force all the busses to queue up instead of allowing the flow.

    So many of the “Green Party” road redesigns seem to just cause more and more pollution. Look what we have coming at the Palace Pier when the roundabout is taken out!

    And as a small tradesman I already avoid working in the city centre. If I am force to go in I have to double my rate due to the time and costs involved.

    > receive cash for scrapping dirty vehicles, helping them upgrade to cleaner models
    Yeah, great if you can afford the £1000s for a new car. I can’t, so I keep my old car out of landfill. It is old but well serviced. As usual these kinds of policies are designed for the cash rich.

    • Helen Reply

      Green road designs always seem to add to congestion and pollution. Green policies seem to hurt the poor hardest and anyone with disabilities. I think it’s because Greens tend to be middle class or trustafarian types who do WFH-type jobs, and couldn’t handle a wrench, fit machinery or build a home if they tried. No real-world understanding.

      • Rob Reply

        This is a government scheme!

        • mart Burt Reply

          Yes it is, but I doubt the Government ‘Want’ councils to increase pollution by ill thought out schemes as has been the case with ‘previous’ Green practices.
          North Street, Brighton Station, Lewes Road and London Road all areas where Pollution INCREASED due to ‘Greens’ ‘Road Improvement’ schemes.
          Just take a look at the VG3 scheme, removal of the roundabout will cause by BHCC’s own admission, increased congestion and the obvious pollution it wants to reduce. The scheme has also been criticised and sited as low value by the funding group.
          Much of the Traffic management systems need looking at, as most of it causes the tailbacks. Like traffic lights that hold traffic up. A good example is New England, you sit at a Red, while the two sets in front are Green and no vehicles in sight. They turn red, yours go green and you move twenty yards to the red set. You sit there for 3 minutes before they change and guess what, you go up to the next set that have turned to red.
          Elm Grove/Lewes Rd/Union Road is another poorly phased set of lights that cause major foul ups and delays. These delays also have knock on effects to the Buses also, and the council want to encourage people out their cars.

  9. Jojo Goldsmith Reply

    And no mention of banning trendy wood burning stoves because that would offend the right on middle classes who they need to support this. Hypocrisy.

    • Adrian Hill Reply

      I’m all for regulating wood stoves; I wrote an article here https://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2022/01/30/trendy-wood-burners-pollute-brighton-and-hoves-air-now-councillors-must-act/
      Brighton & Hove is the largest city in England without a full Smoke Control Area. The government could also better regulate solid fuel burning.
      Smoke Control Zone for coal & wood air pollution, Clean Air Zone for motor vehicle air pollution.
      Remember that a Clean Air Zone only affects the 10% dirtiest of vehicles and the independent recommendation was to exempt residents; you personally and everyone else in Brighton & Hove will have the air quality improved, risk of disease reduced, without having to make any sacrifice at all. Saying yes to a Clean Air Zone could also provide you with funding to upgrade your vehicle if you want to upgrade it. Its common sense and a win – win.

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