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Experts explore low emission zone for Brighton and Hove to reduce pollution
12:58pm Friday 29th June 2012 in News
AN ANTI-pollution zone is being investigated as a way to clear Brighton and Hove's poisonous air.
Experts are looking at ways to set up a low emission zone (LEZ) across congested areas of the city to reduce pollution and improve people's lives.
This could see lorries and buses banned from key routes which experience high levels of traffic.
It comes as Brighton and Hove was named as one of the worst 12 areas in the country for air pollution.
The Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs said LEZs were one of “the most effective ways of improving air quality in our towns and cities in the shortest time possible”.
Officials are considering creating LEZs in the most polluted parts of Sussex.
But this is unlikely to take on the same format as that in London where the owners of larger older vehicles have to pay up to £200 a day to use the roads.
Nigel Jenkins, of Sussex Air Quality Partnership, said: “We're working with councils, including Brighton and Hove City Council, and looking at all the air quality management areas in the county to see what we can do.
“A low emission zone is a definite option but it does not need to be along the London model.
“London is different as it already has all the infrastructure in place so can monitor vehicles.
“A similar zone like that would require cameras and a lot of investment.”
Mr Jenkins said options could involve restricting HGV use in roads where lorries regularly drive.
He added a more likely option would be working with bus and taxi companies to ensure their vehicles are modern and use alternative fuels, such as gas.
Norwich and Oxford have already created low emission zones along these lines.
Not a silver bullet
The Green administration said the problem in the city came from emissions from all cars not just older ones so an LEZ targeting older vehicles like in London would not be effective.
Ian Davey, the chair of the council's transport committee said: “The city's air quality problems aren't news to many residents, who for years have had to put up with dangerously high levels of pollution.
“A low emission zone is an option, but not a silver bullet. It's one of a number of tools that may help deal with the problem of air pollution, along with promoting sustainable transport and working to keep traffic steadily moving.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas added: “The council is already taking action to reduce road congestion in the city and promote sustainable transport, but the truth is that poor air quality is too big a problem for councils to deal with alone.
“While low emission zones could be part of the solution, we would need a formal commitment from the Government to a national roll-out of LEZs to ensure that councils get the resources they need to make this a reality.”
Hove MP Mike Weatherley expressed concerns over the “rigid targets” in place in LEZs elsewhere.
He said: “On paper low emission zones can appear like a neat solution to improving air quality, which is something that I am sure everyone wants for our city.
“However, as we recently saw with the Big Lemon and the low emission zone in London, our very own eco-bus company didn't even meet the rigid targets imposed by the zone to allow it to travel in London - to collect an eco award - without paying a punitive fee.”
Roger French, from Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company, said any regulations on buses would need to be phased in over time.
He added: “In the long term it is a good idea and we are already investing in new buses as much as we can.
“But you cannot throw a bus fleet away overnight.”
Andrew Cheesman, of the Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum, warned any LEZ would simply push the problem elsewhere.
He said: “Whatever the council has done it has made it worse.
“Making Lewes Road one lane has made the pollution worse because of the traffic.”
He said a congestion charge was more likely to reduce traffic numbers and improve air quality.
The council's hand may be forced after the European Commission ruled the Government could not delay making improvements to air quality in Brighton and Hove and the other 11 worst affected areas of the country.
It means the government faces fines for not meeting targets, and there are fears these could be passed down to the local authority under the Localism Bill.
Areas in the city with the highest levels of Nitrogen Dioxide in 2011
Middle of North Street - 79 microgrammes per cubic metre
Viaduct Terrace - 70.9
Lower North Street - 65.9
Lewes Road, south of Vogue Gyratory - 65.5
Oxford Street, near London Road - 65.4
Marlborough Place - 61.5
New England Road, near Argyle Road - 58
Western Road, west of Churchill Square - 57.7
Queens Road, north of the Clock Tower - 55.8
East Old Shoreham Road - 54.4
Legal limit - 40
Pollutant Health effects at very high levels
Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone: These gases irritate the airways of the lungs, increasing the symptoms of those suffering from lung diseases.
Particles: Fine particles can be carried deep into the lungs where they can cause inflammation and a worsening of heart and lung diseases.
Carbon Monoxide: This gas prevents the uptake of oxygen by the blood. This can lead to a significant reduction in the supply of oxygen to the heart, particularly in people suffering from heart disease