Action to help keep our air clean

Plans to help Plymouth make its air even cleaner and help improve the health of all the city’s residents, wherever they live, are being unveiled.

Plymouth City Council’s Cabinet is to declare a citywide Air Quality Management Area to tackle pollution – particularly nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – as part of its ongoing efforts to improve life for the city’s residents and to reduce health inequality.

Now, instead of separate AQMAs, Plymouth will have a single AQMA that covers two existing hotspots in Exeter Street and Mutley Plain as well as other locations with higher levels of NO2 because of traffic fumes: they are Royal Parade, the junction of Molesworth Road and Devonport Road in Stoke and the junction of Tavistock Road and Crownhill Road.

A single AQMA will allow the Council to manage the areas with one encompassing action plan, Councillor Brian Vincent, Cabinet member for the Environment, explained. He said: “This is a much more practical approach and will allow us to look at the city as a whole, rather than inadvertently shifting a problem elsewhere.

“As Britain’s Ocean City we enjoy a much cleaner air than other big cities – but there are hotspots where chemicals build.

“Many of us contribute to this by driving, but there are measures we can take as a city to reduce the levels of NO2, which can cause health conditions such as respiratory difficulties, asthma and heart disease. We need to tackle this as a city.

The Air Quality Action Plan will be part of the Local Transport Plan which aims to keep traffic moving and improve congestion. A key aspect of both is to reduce the reliance on cars and encourage more people to use buses or bikes, which helps reduce emissions.

Other measures that are also effective include speed controls, low emission zones, education, travel plans for large businesses, work with bus and taxi operators to reduce emissions and improved public transport infrastructure.

Plymouth monitors air pollutants, most of which are well below the air quality objectives. An AQMA for benzene was declared in 2004 on Exeter Street but measures introduced led to this being lifted.
However, traffic related pollutants such as NO2 are exceeding objectives, similar to many other cities across the UK. Over 250 cities have declared AQMAs, the vast majority are for NO2.

Notes to editors

• Plymouth has 69 monitoring sites for NO2
• A single AQMA covering an entire city is not unusual. Exeter City Council declared an AQMA in 2007 covering most of the main traffic routes in the city