‘Need to avoid complacency’ on Chichester’s air quality situation

A councillor has warned against complacency after two of the four Air Quality Management Areas in Chichester were revoked due to a drop in pollution levels.

Local Authorities are required by law to declare such management areas (AQMAs) where national air quality standards are not likely to be achieved.

During a district council cabinet meeting on January 11, the AQMAs in Orchard Street and the Stockbridge A27 Roundabout were ‘undeclared’ as nitrogen dioxide levels were now ‘comfortably compliant’ with the required standards.

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Looking at what more could be done to reduce pollution, Sarah Sharp (Green, Chichester South) said: “We need to avoid complacency and keep going with our efforts to ensure our residents have safe air to breath.

Green councillor Sarah Sharp

“These efforts have to include getting more people out of their cars and onto public transport, onto bikes and walking instead.

“We need to work with Stagecoach to get cleaner buses. We need School Streets, cargo trikes delivering goods locally, and smoke-control areas to make sure we only burn safe, clean fuels.”

Mrs Sharp also aired concerns from some residents about whether revoking the management areas was the right idea.

She said: “You might expect residents to be pleased because the removal of the label should affect their house prices in a positive way.

“But, although it may seem counter-intuitive, most of my residents are concerned by the lifting of the label, because worries about their health far outweigh any financial gains.

Air pollution is a killer.”

As well as revoking the two AQMAs, the council also adopted its revised Air Quality Action Plan.

The plan, which has to be revised every five years, lays out actions proposed to help drive up air quality.

The standard under UK law is 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air, whereas guidelines from the World Health Organisation (WHO) are set at 10 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air.

Mrs Sharp said she was concerned by the difference and wondered how the action plan could take the WHO levels into account.

A council spokesman said the authority was legally obliged to use the standards set out by the government when assessing whether an area’s AQMA status should be removed.

Acknowledging that the current legislation did not reflect the WHO values, they added: “Before submitting our proposal to un-declare the Orchard Street and Stockbridge areas of Chichester, we first checked this point with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and it confirmed that we need to continue to work within the current UK legislation.

“Any decisions on updates and alterations to the government’s Local Air Quality Management scheme legislation would be made by DEFRA.

“Enhancing air quality in the district is a key priority for the council, and our Air Quality Action Plan is just one of the steps we are taking to help protect our district’s environment.

“Air quality is a complex issue and one that we cannot tackle alone.

“We will be working with partner organisations, such as West Sussex County Council, and will continue to encourage people to help reduce air pollution in their everyday lives.’