Letter outlining the situation and what needs funding.

Dear Michael,

I am writing to you about the ministerial directive on air quality which Portsmouth City Council has received.

My understanding is that we received this ministerial direction to produce a plan to improve air quality because of concerns in the Defra modelling about the air quality at the end of the motorway spur into Portsmouth (M275) and then further on the roads towards Unicorn Gate – an access point into the Naval dockyard

The city council has dramatically increased the number of air sampling points in the city and our initial reading were that the actual results at the end of the M275 were significantly lower than the modelling had suggested. we were though very concerned about an area not identified by Defra which is the Fratton Road/London Road central route the the middle of the island, that the city council’s monitoring here suggested that there was a problem with air pollution and we have been working to produce a plan to rectify this.

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. There is the possibility that the readings this year may have been affected by atmospheric conditions but we don’t know and we need to plan. I am very concerned about the possibility of an imposition of a Clean Air Zone on Portsmouth and the increased cost this would load onto both the individual and onto businesses in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is a city with economic challenges and for both families and for businesses the extra cost of a Clean Air Zone could be hugely damaging.

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. 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. I understand that the new burdens doctrine applies and therefore we should be looking to the government for funding.

A significant proportion of the air pollution comes from traffic and therefore we need to look at what we can do to significantly reduce this and give people an incentive to use non-car based travel. Some of the suggestions I have heard are as follows:-

1) A free bus pass for each resident of the city all day, every day, to encourage people onto buses and out of their cars.
2) The creation of a trolley bus system like that operatives in our twin city of Caen, as there seems to be a much higher usage of tram and trolley bus systems than of buses.
3) Investment to convert the taxi and private hire fleet operating within Portsmouth to an entirely electric fleet.
4) That Portsmouth receives the same level of government subsidy to encourage people to cycle that is received by the London boroughs/TFL.
5) We would like to look at a transfer station where lorries bringing loads into the city can drop off their loads which are then taken in by electric cabs.
6) The government is currently increasing the number of house completions it expects from Portsmouth from around the 430 houses/flats that we currently complete to around 830 per annum. This is clearly completely incompatible with having to significantly reduce air pollution and I would ask for Portsmouth to be relieved of any housing target so we do not make the air pollution situation any worse.
7) We also need to look at the effect that shipping has both in the commercial ferry port and in Portsmouth Naval Base on these air quality figures and to work with the ship owners on a strategy to reduce this level of pollution.
8) A car scrappage scheme targeted at families on the lowest incomes who often have the most pollution vehicles but the least money to replace them with something modern with low emissions.
9) We would also like to be able to run our own bus service and to have a local bus depot to reduce the pollution of buses having to drive into Portsmouth from Fareham.

We would be very happy to work with you to try to find way in which we can have a dramatic effect in reducing air pollution.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson CBE, Leader of the Council

I’m not sure the measures listed will actually solve the air quality problem but they will provide a means to get around the city by public transport, which is a good start.

Oh yes, the city council declared a climate emergency and to go zero carbon by 2030. This will have a huge impact on air quality.

Comparing the council’s list to Public Health England’s list of proven strategies shows only a … limited overlap.

PS My interview on BBC Radio Solent

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