Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, asking the government to fund ‘radical’ measures to cut air pollution in the city.
The letter comes after the council’s own air quality monitoring has found pollution has ‘significantly increased’ since the authority was first ordered to lower its NO2 levels by government in May last year.
The letter lobbies the environment secretary for funding for measures including free bus passes, electric taxi fleets and trams in order to avoid a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) which could see drivers being charged to enter Portsmouth.
‘I am sorry to have to tell you that the readings that we now have for last year show significantly increased areas of air pollution around the city and we therefore need to look at a much wider and much more radical plan to reduce air pollution,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson wrote in the letter, obtained by Air Quality News.
He added: ‘I would, therefore, like to ask for your support in looking at alternative measures to be able to reduce air pollution and therefore remove the need for a Clean Air Zone.’
A significant proportion of Portsmouth’s air pollution comes from traffic, not only from roads but also potentially from the city’s large shipping industry, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.
One of the options now being floated by the council includes a free bus pass for every resident of the city – valid all day, every day – to encourage people out of their cars.
Other ideas include the creation of a trolley bus system, converting Portsmouth’s taxi and private hire fleet entirely to electric cars and a transfer system to allow lorries’ loads to be brought into the city via electric cabs.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson has also asked for Portsmouth to be ‘relieved’ of its requested housing target, with the council given the ability to set its own.
All these measures are being considered to avoid the introduction of a CAZ, the costs of which Cllr Vernon-Jackson said would be ‘hugely damaging’ on Portsmouth’s families and businesses.
‘The areas I would ask for your help with may be expensive but I would hope that the government would look to fund these to be able to get the dramatic reduction in air pollution that the ministerial directive expects,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.
Portsmouth is expected to provide a report this October on how it plans to improve air quality in its air quality management areas.
Current air pollution hotspots in Portsmouth include the end of the M275 motorway spur into the city and the area around Unicorn Gate, an entry point to its naval dockyard.