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Winchester campaigners call for action on air quality

Green campaigners in town submit formal complaint to the EU about their city’s air quality.

Winchester campaign groups have made a formal complaint about the city’s air pollution levels to the European Commission.

The ‘Complaint to the Commission of the European Communities concerning failure to comply with Community law’ is jointly signed by Winchester Green Party and Winchester Friends of the Earth and is levelled against Winchester city council, Hampshire county council and the UK government.

Winchester High Street in the town centre – campaigners claim the local authorities have not done enough to tackle air quality problems in the city.

The campaigners allege that the local authorities and UK government have failed to comply with the EC ambient air quality directive for annual average nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

The complaint states that there has been a “persistent failure to take action to meet the strictures of the Directive,” and a failure “to act to protect the health of the citizens of Winchester.”

Also supporting the complaint is Green Party MEP for the south east region, Keith Taylor, who claims that annual levels of nitrogen dioxide in the town have been 25% above the maximum EU air quality limit for the past nine years.

A Winchester city council spokesperson said that roadside measurements had only recorded figures in excess of EU limits on St. Georges Street in the town centre.

Mr Taylor visited the city to meet around 25 Winchester campaigners on Friday (30 November) who presented him with a copy of the formal complaint.

Both Mr Taylor and Friends of the Earth say Winchester city council has not done enough to tackle the problem, which is largely being blamed on high traffic levels.

Mr Taylor commented: “I’m glad that people in Winchester have taken this bold step to voice their concerns about the air quality problem at a European level. Air pollution levels in the town are worryingly high and we’ve seen no serious action from either the city or the county council. I’m pleased to be supporting their complaint to the European Commission in Brussels. It’s high time that action was taken to make Winchester a healthier, safer place to live in and travel around.”

Hazel Agombar of Friends of the Earth added: “We have waited years for the council to take proper responsibility for this.”

Council action plan

Despite the concerns, Winchester council says it has implemented a travel plan, car parking policy and a forthcoming cycling strategy in a bid to reduce air pollution in the city and is awaiting the findings of a traffic management study which would inform its future work on improving air quality.

Rob Heathcock, Winchester council’s assistant director for high quality environment, said in a statement: “The city council takes the issue of air quality in the City centre very seriously and is working hard with its key partner Hampshire county council on a programme of improvements which will help to reduce levels of pollution. We have already been able to undeclare our air quality management area for particulates which no other authority in Hampshire has managed to do.

He continued: “A key document which will inform future work is a traffic management study completed by the County Council which we have been awaiting for some time. We will then be able to update our air quality action plan which was reviewed in detail earlier this year.

“Ultimately, actions to improve air quality have to carefully introduced in order to strike a balance between the need for access to maintain the economic vitality of the City and the need to reduce levels of pollution. We will continue to ensure that this balance is maintained in any future developments.”

Air quality report

Many of the council’s attempts to address the air pollution problem so far are the result of recommendations made in a final report from its Air Quality Informal Scrutiny Group, published on the Winchester council website on 23 January 2012.

This report included a recommendation for the council to begin gathering information on whether establishing a Low Emission Zone in the city would be a viable option and urged the Government to do more to encourage these zones nationally.

The report stated: “The Committee is calling on the Government to establish a national framework of low emissions zones to help local authorities reduce traffic pollution, as well as urging Ministers to launch a public awareness campaign to drive air quality up the political agenda.”

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Dr John Saffell
8 years ago

We manufacture air quality sensors; they are currently being deployed at Heathrow airport (50 wireless boxes, with Cambridge Chemistry). I live in Cambridge during the week, but in Stoke Chairty (SO21 3PG) on weekends and am in winchester every weekend. We could deploy a network in winchester to monitor Ozone and nitrogen dioxide in real time, providing the information you need to determine the polluting sources. We have done this in Cambridge successfully.