Air pollution has become so bad in parts of Brighton and Hove that new homes have been banned in case residents are poisoned by the fumes.

The quality of the air has deteriorated since council bosses set targets to tackle the problem.

In 2005, officials identified 18 pollution hot spots as part of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan.

The plan set targets to cut the level of carcinogenic nitrogen dioxide in the city’s air by 2010.

But the most recent survey has added an extra 12 sites to the list of areas, in most parts of the city, where pollution levels exceeded EU limits.

In one of the worst affected areas in the city, developers have been banned from building a block of flats because the groundfloor windows would have allowed too much pollution into the homes.

The council’s planning committee refused permission for the development at 112113 Lewes Road after hearing environmental health reports about poor air quality in the area around the Vogue Gyratory.

Green councillor Ian Davey, who sits on the city’s planning committee, said: “Environmental health officers said that air quality at Lewes Road was so bad that the ground floor should not be able to open their windows. “It is staggering we have allowed air quality to get so terrible.

“The city really needs to deal with air quality caused by traffic People in the area have told me that with the new pedestrian crossing it is even worse, because the traffic fumes are building up.

The fear is that air quality is not only not improving, it is getting worse “It is another year before the air quality results come through so the worry is it takes so long to find out how bad it is that people’s health could be suffering in the meantime “We really don’t know the health effects on these people, but for people who have long-term exposure to poor air quality, like people living in the area, it is a particular concern.”

Dr Tom Scanlon, director of public health for Brighton and Hove, said air pollution could be extremely dangerous for vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and people with existing medical conditions He said: “Air pollution can be a factor in respiratory disorders and can cause mortality “There is clear evidence that people, particularly those with established lung conditions, asthma, the very old and the very young, can be extremely vulnerable to air pollution. People should be concerned particularly those with an established heart or lung condition “They should be particularly aware of it and avoid living in areas with high air pollution.”

An assessment of air quality conducted for Brighton and Hove City Council in 2005 listed 18 areas where air pollution exceeded EU limits.

The Vogue Gyratory and Preston Circus were top of the list. Green Euro MP Caroline Lucas last night warned that Brighton residents could face a summer of smog if clean air targets are not met. Pollution is so bad in some areas of the city that experts say just breathing poses a health hazard, she said.

But rather than take steps to sort it out the Government refuses to adopt the new rules, while the council bans opening windows.

Residents living near the proposed development said air quality was affecting their lives.

Decorator John Chisholm, 49, of Aberdeen Road, said: “There has always been very poor air quality, particularly in the rush hour.

We just won’t go anywhere near Lewes Road in the morning and evening rush hour.

I have an asthmatic friend who suffers a lot.

It makes me keep the windows shut and go down the quiet streets to avoid the main road.

Residents in Hollingdean Road said their street was particularly bad.

One woman, who did not want to be named, said: “I only open the window an inch and you can smell it.

“However often you clean the windows they are always dirty again straight away.”