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

Air quality is a big wide-ranging question but as Green city councillor Ian Davey points out, it is a big wide-ranging issue.

He says: “Air quality has been a serious problem for many years. It seems that despite the efforts that have been made by the council during the past few years, we may be in the situation where the council is not solving the problem and that it may be getting worse in some areas of the city.

“As the Conservatives have pointed out it is true that air quality has improved in parts of the city but it is equally true that in some areas air quality has got worse.

“The trouble with trying to quantify air quality is that while the average amount of pollution might be on the slide, people are still living and breathing in hot spots which are getting worse. It is these areas that need to be targeted.”

But how? Coun Davey argues more needs to be done to encourage people out of their cars and to cycle or walk.

He said: “In places like the Vogue Gyratory and Lewes Road it is a serious problem and you only have to walk along there to see that. We need to recognise and acknowledge the causes.

“I would say it’s down to too many vehicles in too small a space. The streets of this city are not designed to handle the number of vehicles that are currently trying to use them.

“The first thing we need to do is reduce the need to travel and look at how we are failing to do this. The school situation, for example, where children in Goldsmid cannot get into their local school and have been allocated a place two miles away.

“Generally we need to make walking and cycling safer and more attractive.”

Coun Davey said money needed to be spent on a proper network of cycle lanes and walking routes to encourage people out of their cars and suggested reducing the speed limit to 20mph in residential areas to improve safety.

He also said improvements to the bus network were needed to ease the pressure on the number of buses passing through the city centre.

He added: “City College was granted planning permission for a redevelopment of the site in Pelham Street with no car parking. It was fantastic but the Tories tried to turn that down and tried to get an underground car park included.

“The Conservative administration needs to recognise that if you keep insisting on more car parking you will get more cars.”

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, cabinet member for the environment, said in a statement that coverage of air quality was alarmist.

He said: “I would recommend that your readers visit our city air watch website which is recognised as one of the best local authority air on the internet websites. Our air quality action plan is improving air quality.

“Comparison with a similar article [from November 2007, see related links below] shows a list of city pollution hot spots has been rearranged between the two articles.

“A number of streets in last week’s Argus list no longer exceed the objective for nitrogen dioxide. The council recorded an improvement at more than 80% of its sites in 2008.

“Transport planning measures have ensured continuing improvement in nitrogen dioxide levels citywide.”

Nigel Jenkins, project development officer for the Sussex Air Quality Partnership, said there had been an overall improvement in air quality over the years which can be pinned down to a series of measures.

He said: “The air quality in most cities in the UK is improving because there are European and UK driven initiatives that are reducing pollution across the board.

“In Brighton there is a very good bus system and generally there have been technological improvements with cleaner engines in cars. If we had the number of cars that we have today on the roads ten years ago the emissions would have been dirtier than they are today.”

There will always be a certain amount of air pollution in areas where there is traffic and ultimately that will always be the case. New technology coupled with improvements in public transport and an investment in pathways and cycleways will certainly help ease the choking of residents but it’s a problem that cannot rely on a single solution.