Bristol Mayor urged by Lib Dem councillors to improve air quality monitoring within the city
Two Bristol councillors have criticised the city’s Mayor for his work on tackling air pollution and called for an increase in the number of air quality monitors in the city.
The Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, has previously stated that air quality is the priority for the year of Bristol as European Green Capital 2015.
However, Liberal Democrat councillor Anthony Negus said he was concerned that the Mayor’s attitude on tackling air pollution “is not as robust as it should beâ€? and he called for the introduction of “effective and properly located monitoring stationsâ€? in a statement submitted to the council’s place scrutiny committee last week (December 5).
This is because, according to the councillor, in the central part of the city and along main radial roads, which form part of the council’s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are regularly exceeding UK and European annual and hourly objectives, which is partly due to the city centre being subject to high flows of buses.
Council documents reveal that one monitoring site on Rupert Street in the city recorded annual mean concentrations of NO2 at 85.1 microgrammes per cubic metre (ugm3) in 2013. The national and EU limit for NO2 is 40ugm3.
This is despite the fact that, according to council documents, nitrogen dioxide levels in Bristol away from the immediate vicinity of busy streets are “generally goodâ€? and the city complied with objectives for all other pollutant concentrations in 2013.
The council has an air quality strategy which covers the whole of Bristol and has already taken key actions to tackle the NO2 problem, such as reducing speed limits, introducing electric vehicle charge-points, installing cleaner bus technology and improving cycling facilities.
The council has also been investigating the possibility of a low emission zone (LEZ) – something which councillor Negus and as well as fellow Lib Dem councillor Clare Campion-Smith have also been campaigning for the introduction of a LEZ in the city centre in order to boost air quality.
Feasibility studies on the possibility of introducing an LEZ have previously been carried out, but results from a business study indicate that while such a zone is “viableâ€? it will also “require significant initial capital setup costsâ€?.
In addition, council documents state that “there are risks associated with ongoing operational revenue costs which would be subsidised by funds generated from non-compliance fines that may fluctuate, reducing subsidy certaintyâ€?.
Nevertheless, the city council is continuing to investigate what funding options might be available to pilot an LEZ concept in the city to “better understand the operational issues and costsâ€?.
Representing the Cotham ward in the city, councillor Negus called for more monitoring stations as well as an LEZ, arguing that “proper air quality monitoring is not only value-for-money but it is essential to inform our environmental actions to improve the health of our citizens too.â€?
He added: “It enables us to act on the scientific intelligence we receive and tackle the city’s chronic problems through evidence-led policy.â€?
He said it was important to widely disseminate air pollution information and warnings in order to raise awareness among residents and also to help inform actions to tackle the problem.
Councillor Negus said: “Bristol’s air quality can be improved so that everyone who lives, works and visits every part of the city can have confidence in the air that they breathe and ensure a steady consequential reduction of health risks. I would like to see a more rounded, and evidence-led approach to how we achieve these goals. We should be using monitors to better inform our priorities and actions.â€?
Councillor Campion-Smith – who is also seeking the Bristol Northwest seat in parliament in May 2015 – echoed councillor Negus’ points and highlighted her successful campaign against a proposed biomass power plant in nearby Avonmouth on air pollution and health impacts grounds.
Specific air quality monitoring is also currently being undertaken in Avonmouth by the council and the Environment Agency in response to concerns about industrial pollution in the area, but results of this are not yet available.
Councillor Campion-Smith commented: “According to Public Health England it’s estimated that around 5% of all deaths among the over 25s is linked to long term exposure to air pollution. Air quality monitoring is not therefore just an environmental issue, but also a public health issue. We must take simple measures, such as more intelligently located air quality monitors, to tackle this problem and make sure that our residents are breathing clean air. If we do not, we face a wealth of health problems in the population further down the line.â€?