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Portsmouth calls on government to help with air crisis

Portsmouth city council has called on government to help with tackling air pollution crisis. They have asked for funds to bus travel:

We are asking for the cost of bus passes to be covered because we know that many people say they don’t use public transport due to the cost.

Cllr Vernon-JacksoN

Depending on how much funding is allocated, this is either the start of cheaper bus travel [UPDATE: this would be for everyone!] or a precursor to the council saying “DEFRA forced us to implement a clean air zone”.

The council are ignoring my calls for the draft air quality plans to be published. This is important for public accountability, particularly since the plans will have a large impact on people living and working in the city.

While subsiding public transport is not the most effective way to improve air quality (according to the PHE report), it is very good at addressing social inequalities caused by further restrictions on private car use. Bus subsidies are not enough on their own, so I expect further restrictions on private car use.

One point of concern is that the council mention £8 fee for entering a future clean air zone – perhaps that should be dependent on the type of fuel the car uses, and the age of the vehicle? Older diesels are quite bad for air quality.

In other news,

Air pollution kills 1.6 million more people a year globally than smoking, research suggests. In the UK, 64,000 deaths in 2015 have been linked to air pollution, including 17,000 fatal cases of heart and artery disease

WHO (Sky News, 12 March 2019)

This is doubling of the World Health Organization’s previous estimates. This underscores the need for firmer action is needed to tackle air pollution.

I’m going to the protest to support the climate emergency motion going through the council today. I hope it gets through without being watered down!

PS Two journalists mentioned that 16 sites are above the legal limit, rather than the 4 from last year. This looks like a significant worsening.

PPS I’ve just seen a new council leaflet in air pollution. “Improving traffic flows” is probably counter productive since it increases the road capacity, which in turn increases private car use. The leaflet says even with their planned measures, they won’t be doing it as fast as the government wants – or should I say as fast as the law requires (“as quickly as possible”). It seems like they are priming the public to expect a clean air zone. This could be good if they do it well and target the most polluting vehicles.

PPPS An electric charging point has appeared in a lamp post near my house! The scheme is called SimpleSocket and has a ubitricity logo.

Car charging area
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PHE Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health – Key Quotes

Public Health England published a very important report on the evidence, feasibility and effectiveness of measures to improve outdoor air quality. This helps government bodies focus their resources on measures that are actually beneficial and value for money. I’m still absorbing the report but in a first reading, I found many key quotes that I think are worth sharing. I skipped the sections on industrial and agricultural measures since they are less relevant to Portsmouth. The report confirms much of what we have been saying in #LetPompeyBreathe for some time.

P.S. A motion to declare a climate emergency in Portsmouth is going to be debated 19th March. Includes pledge to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the Portsmouth by 2030 – this could have a drastic impact on air quality. Demonstration in support by XRPortsmouth at 11am. See item 16a in the agenda.

General principles, background

“Neighbouring authorities therefore need to work together, especially on interventions that apply to defined spatial areas, such as clean air zones.”

“It is better to reduce air pollution at source that to mitigate the consequences.” “Prioritising interventions that prevent or reduce emissions over those that address pollution once it has occurred.”

“Improving air quality can go hand in hand with economic growth. A common misconception is that air pollution is a necessary consequence of economic prosperity, whereas a clean environment is increasingly understood to support, rather than hinder, economic growth.”

“those whose livelihoods depend on driving but who do not have access to or the resources for cleaner vehicles may need particular support because some of the most effective interventions target road vehicle emissions. Without such support, action on air quality may have the perverse impact of increasing inequalities.”

“Systematically evaluating all interventions. Evaluation should be embedded in the design and costing of all future interventions, from their outset, to systematically gather evidence to inform best practice in the future.”

“A joined-up spatial planning and transport strategy is one of the most effective ways of increasing public transport use and active travel and reducing emissions from existing vehicles over time – some local authorities have successfully used workplace or other levies to fund improvement and use of public transport. Spatial planning can be used to reduce the need for vehicle use by design, and has a wider role in reducing emissions from buildings through energy-efficiency measures and use of renewable energy technologies. Promising local interventions that can help reduce demand for more polluting forms of transport are associated with use of public transport and active travel and include: subsidising public transport, designating new and priority bus measures, new tram and taxi schemes, providing school buses, providing infrastructure to enable walking and cycling, and promoting walking and cycling, which provide significant health benefits associated with physical exercise.”

‘This report proposes the adoption of a “net health gain” principle in any new policy or work programme which affects air pollution. If this is adopted, then any new development or proposal for change to existing developments will intend to deliver an overall benefit to people’s public health.’

“Children are particulary vulnerable to the effects of air pollution. […] We therefore recommend taking a particularly focused approach on reducing the impact of air pollution on children.”

“Those with lower socioeconomic status and those from ethnic minorities can be disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards, including proximity to industrial facilities, hazardous waste sites, air pollution, noise and occupational exposures (13). […] As it requires actions across social classes to reduce the gap between them, this includes measures to promote changes among those who are wealthier to reduce their impacts, especially if they affect the poorest or most vulnerable groups or areas.”

“During the course of 2 recorded episodes of poor air quality in March-April 2014, and for 2 days afterwards, there were statistically significant increases in the proportion of daily telephone calls to NHS 111 for difficulty breathing, daily consultation rates for GP in-hours for severe asthma and wheeze or breathlessness, and in the proportion of GP out-of-hours consultations for difficulty breathing or wheeze or asthma and attendances at sentinel emergency departments (16).”

Fraction of mortality attributable to particulate air pollution 2017, South east – 5.6%

Vehicle/fuel interventions

“Use of taxation is one of the most cost-effective measures and typically straightforward as it is implemented within an existing system. The literature is clear that any pricing mechanism scheme, whether it is a national tax duty or local road toll, should be designed with care as the unintended social inequality impacts of increased cost of transport affects the most deprived in society (51).”

“Very effective interventions for enhancing public health were road pricing measures, particularly in the case of low and integrated fares (for more than one public transport mode) which facilitate greater public transport use and help reduce social exclusion, and congestion and parking charges, which can help reduce car use (68).

“For road transport, interventions that aim to reduce the use of polluting forms of transport, such as national road pricing, increased fuel duty and LEZs, can be effective at reducing traffic emissions. This is mainly at local level, but they can also have national benefits if implemented at many areas across the country. However, such measures can be unpopular because of their restrictive nature, if not handled sensitively with considerable prior consultation and engagement. […] The promotion of walking and cycling, as well as subsidising public transport, have the greatest overall health benefits, providing flexibility to select routes away from heavily trafficked main roads whilst active travelling. Furthermore, these transport modes increase physical activity that leads to multiple health co-benefits. They also have potential to improve health inequalities, as they can be made equally accessible to all population categories.”

Measures found to be effective for improving air quality locally (Table 16 & 17):

  • Promote walking and cycling (mainly for potential for public health co- benefits rather than air quality)
  • National road pricing
  • Increase fuel duty/target at diesels
  • Promote abatement retrofit

Planning

“the interventions with the highest potential to be effective both at national but mainly at local level are related to traffic. Driving restrictions produced the largest scale and most consistent reductions in air pollution levels for all the interventions, the effectiveness strength was low, and the uncertainty range was high, with only 1 exception: driving restrictions. However, the paucity of evidence of effectiveness should not be confused with or assumed to be evidence of ineffectiveness […] measures, such as Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and road pricing, produced reductions in traffic, but not necessarily great improvements in air quality, perhaps due to localisation of emissions, for example by displacement. LEZ are potentially effective at reducing air pollutant levels (more effective for particulate matter, PM 10 than for nitrogen dioxide, NO 2 ) in cities. […] green infrastructure is potentially effective not only to improve air quality related public health outcomes, but also to improve health inequalities in urban areas and promote our health and well-being

“From the interventions identified for spatial/transport planning, driving restrictions produced the largest scale and most consistent reductions in air pollution levels at a city level, and seem to be an effective way to both reduce air pollution and improve public health. However, these restrictions may require changes in the political thinking and practice in the UK, and their longer-term effectiveness is not well evidenced.”

“There is evidence that appropriately designed urban green infrastructure can improve air quality and reduce exposure to noise on a local scale but should not be used in isolation to address air pollution (121).”

“Although the implementation of LEZs seems to be effective at reducing PM 10 levels, there is less evidence that LEZs are effective at reducing NOx. […] Although road pricing (congestion charge) is an effective mean of controlling traffic and reducing emissions (eg, in Stockholm), the impact on air quality is not always clear. […] They are expected to work best if combined with interventions that incentivise the use of both heavy and light duty vehicles with the most recent Euro 6 standards, which have a greater impact than earlier emission standards. The practical feasibility of this intervention should not be an issue, as it is mainly a matter of political will.”

“Health benefits from speed limits that slow down traffic mainly derive from the need to prevent fatalities and serious injuries to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, and promote active travel. However, this measure does not necessarily result in significant decreases in ambient air pollution levels, even within the intervention zone.”

“Based on the results from ex-ante health impact assessments, the implementation of multiple traffic-related and infrastructure interventions is more likely to produce benefits for air quality and population than single interventions. The most effective combinations of these interventions depend on the issues and contexts of each local area.”

“The evidence from this rapid evidence assessment suggested that planning interventions are crucial for improving air quality and reducing population exposure to air pollution. The interventions with the highest potential to be effective both at national but mainly at local scale are related to traffic.”

“For some interventions, public health ‘co-benefits’ outweigh benefits of reduction of exposure to air pollution. […] there is a wealth of high-quality evidence showing that investing in infrastructure to support walking and cycling can increase physical activity, leading to multiple public health benefits, such as improved cardiovascular outcomes and improved weight status among children, adults and older adults (137). These are convincing reasons to promote these interventions.”

Measures found to be effective for improving air quality locally (Table 18):

  • Encouraging walking and cycling (for its health benefits rather than just for air quality)
  • Driving restriction (plus it has stronger evidence than most measures)
  • Co-implementation of various measures

Behaviour changes

“Little evidence was identified of behavioural interventions that promote alternative methods of transport as having a direct impact on air pollution or health outcomes. However, they should not be discounted, as there is a wealth of evidence showing that removing vehicles from the road can reduce emissions. There is also strong evidence for the health benefits of physical activity associated with active travel, such as walking and cycling. Raising awareness in itself is not enough to effect change: it must be done in conjunction with other behavioural and non-behavioural interventions.”

“The rapid evidence assessment found no substantive evidence of economic costs and benefits associated with behavioural interventions in any of the papers identified.” “The rapid evidence assessment of behavioural interventions found little direct evidence of public health benefits from any individual intervention or group of interventions. To achieve significant changes in behaviour (and associated reductions in emissions), a wide range of soft and hard measures need to be combined to maximise the effectiveness of the overall package of interventions.”

Measures found to be effective for improving air quality locally (Table 22):

  • No highly effective measures found, although several potentially effective measures identified

Discussion

“Strategies that deliver the highest public health benefit relative to transport are actions or interventions aimed at reducing the use of polluting forms of transport, such as low emission zones and road pricing.”

Selected transport interventions’ evaluated public health impact (Figure 23):

  • Subsidising public transport (higher impact)
  • Promote abatement retrofit
  • National road pricing
  • Provision of school buses
  • Promote walking and cycling
  • Promotion of low emission zones
  • Increase fuel duty/target at diesels (lower impact)

“Planning policy focuses on ensuring air quality standards are achieved, rather than reducing emissions to as low as possible.”

Figure 24: Selected planning interventions’ evaluated public health impact:

  • Co-implementation of various measures (Planning) (higher impact)
  • Green infrastructure – urban vegetation
  • Driving restriction
  • Road pricing/Congestion charge
  • Encouraging walking and cycling (lower impact)

Figure 28: Selected behavioural interventions’ evaluated public health impact

  • Exposure reduction programmes (higher impact)
  • Public engagement
  • Eco-driver training
  • Investment in public transport (Encouraging)
  • Air quality messages/alerts/indices
  • No idling campaigns (lower impact)

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#LetPompeyBreathe meets with Stephen Morgan MP

Together with representatives from Old Portsmouth and Milton neighbourhood forums, I raised concerns over Portsmouth City Council’s weak actions in tackling air pollution with our Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan. We described the city wide air pollution situation, as well as the secrecy and inconsistencies of PCC’s actions. One of the most troubling concerns is that PCC cannot give a straight answer to what traffic growth is expected in the next few years. If they say it is 5% per annum, their air quality plans are insufficient. If it is just 0.5%, there is no need for the city centre road scheme. Can PCC get its story straight?

Stephen Morgan seemed to take on the large quantity of information, and said it seems like a failure of governance at PCC, not just a capacity problem (caused by lack of resources). He said he would raise this in the house of commons as a question to the appropriate minister. He also expressed concern that the PCC planning department have been cut back so much as to only be able to be reactive to needs, not proactive.

He also mentioned that the full council is going to debate a motion to declare a climate emergency, if I understood him correctly. I will try to get confirmation.

Other useful documents/news:

What do ClientEarth’s legal cases mean for Feasibility Studies for nitrogen dioxide compliance in England – I suggest PCC memorizes this

Traffic bosses set to switch off traffic lights at major Portsmouth roundabout​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ in bid to cut air pollution

Apparently, PCC’s Cough Cough Engine Off campaign posters were based on Tracey’s poster design (created for #LetPompeyBreathe)!

PS PCC where is your draft Air Quality Plan sent to DEFRA at the end of Jan 2019?

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Air Quality Steering Group 16th Jan – Promising TALK FROM Council but Will They Follow Through?

I went to the 3rd Air Quality Steering Group (AQSG) on 16th Jan. DEFRA has instructed Portsmouth City Council (PCC) to perform various air quality related actions, including a new draft plan by end of Jan 2019. This plan is hugely important for the future of Portsmouth air quality and I hope PCC will take the necessary strong actions.

After a quick introduction by David Ashmore, regulatory services manager Richard Lee outlined recent events. The format was slightly different than previous sessions with Portsmouth City Council (PCC) giving a series of presentations. With the air quality political situation changing rapidly in the last few months, they felt they needed to update everyone. Lee said PCC are committed to take measures that will ensure compliance (in line with the law). The main motivation for this is improvement of public health. He re-iterated the terms of reference for the AQSG were slightly broader than I remembered: to share knowledge, to assist in creating an action plan and to champion improvements. PCC are currently short-listing measures for inclusion in the new plan, which they say will involve “hard choices”. The final plan will be published by the end of Oct 2019. Richard Lee says they will have a programme of continuing improvement after that (but I’m not sure PCC has the political will to follow through considering their lack of progress on air pollution to date). Richard Lee also mentioned that PCC has other objectives such as new developments, but these must “dovetail” with air quality measures.

PCC has been operating under various ministerial directives, supervised I think by DEFRA. March 2018 saw a directive to produce a Targetting Feasibility Study (TFS) to address areas of pollution identified by DEFRA found using modelling. For the two areas of concern, PCC produced a report to bring forward legal compliance in air quality by 2021/2022 respectively. However, the areas did not match the worst pollution areas found by monitoring. Monitoring is generally superior to modelled data (since the model is based on the monitoring and is only ever an approximation). DEFRA seems to be sending PCC on a wild goose chase on where to focus effort. However, Lynne Stagg has recently said PCC have argued that DEFRA needs to focus on London Road (AQMA 6) and other areas based on actual measurements. (Doesn’t DEFRA trust PCC air quality monitoring? Slightly worrying.) The TFS has identified various measures including a bus retrofit programme and expanding electric vehicle (EV) charging points.

The EV charging points will be a lamp post based solution. The lamp post will be at the back of the pavement away from the road. The power cable travels under the pavement to another bollard at the road side for vehicles in a marked bay to use. This raises the issue of clutter on pavements, which if not done well, could discourage walking in the city. PCC plans 40 by the end of the year, mainly located by requests from the public. The possibility of anti-hogging of EV charging points was discussed but no measures are in place at this time. Three car parks are currently trialling EV charging points (Clarence Pier is one). More publicity of these EV points was requested by Rod Bailey (Milton Neighbourhood Planning Forum).

PCC are also conducting an anti-idling campaign. This runs for 4 weeks with radio adverts, social media, online resources and publication of resources (Tracey’s poster was mentioned!) Market research about types of trips and reasons for idling have been conducted. Lamp post banners have appeared on the most polluted roads encouraging drivers to turn of their engines if stationary for more than a minute. Some junctions in Portsmouth have more than a 1 minute wait for traffic e.g. the junction of Priory Crescent/Goldsmith Avenue. Some AQ campaigners in the audience pointed out PCC seem to be watering down their campaign by not mentioning the legal aspect of engine idling. PCC acknowledged that engine idling is illegal but it is not enforced, since resources are better spent elsewhere.

PCC are also running Monster Walk at various schools, encouraging walking and discouraging the “school run” by car. They have designed cute characters to spread awareness and free keyrings awarded for successful completion.

PCC are planning a clean air day for 2019 after the previous day in 2018. Air quality campaigners questioned the effectiveness of the event. PCC officers responded that they were measuring effectiveness using marketing measures such as social media engagement. Campaigners pointed out actual air quality would be a more relevant measure since it should result in a direct behavioural change. Richard Lee noted out that weather plays a role in air pollution, so even a direct measurement would not be a definitive indicator. (Mike Dobson of FOOPA previously observed that the 2018 clean air day produced no benefit based on the councils on continuous monitoring sensors.)

Bus Retrofit programme is beginning, with changes made to buses less than Euro 6 in certain areas of AQMA 9 around the bottom of M275 (why not AQMA 6/the rest of the city?). I thought that bus engines cannot be simply be swapped, but apparently the retrofit can be done at the rate of 1 bus per day. This probably involves a change to engine emission filtering rather than the engine itself. The target date might be Oct 2019, as far as I remember.

PCC only hinted at some of the measures under consideration, such as pedestrianising certain areas of London Road (near Kingston crescent?) or making it one way. Other hints were “reducing car usage” and “encouraging” increased EV usage, both of which are quite vague. I think compliance by 2022 was mentioned as being a DEFRA requirement.

One major development was that PCC announced that measures under consideration will be compared to the effect that a charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) would have on air quality. This was a DEFRA requirement. This is great news as this encourages more ambitious measures to be taken that are quantitatively predicted to be effective. Well done DEFRA and PCC! Our campaign as been calling for this for some time.

Worryingly DEFRA has advised that measures other than a CAZ will be preferred. Also worrying, PCC have said that some of their ideas were considered to be “too ambitious” by DEFRA, being concerned by the cost to taxpayers. DEFRA have told PCC to produce a number of reports by Oct 2019: an overview of the strategic situation with current measurement data, an economic case (to the city residents and businesses?), a commercial case (that PCC can fund the plan?), financial case (?), and a management case that will show the plan will actually achieve compliance. PCC will produce a number of scenarios with different combinations of measures, so the predicted effectiveness and cost can be compared. (Will there be a consultation? Will that further delay implementation?)

PCC are planning an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) survey of traffic in the city. This will be able to check, at certain locations, what journeys vehicles are taking and what types of vehicles are being used. The survey will be run for 7 days, 24 hours a day, possibly in Feb. PCC’s initial plan of a city wide was scaled back on DEFRA’s request to focus mostly on AQMA’s, involving around 60 ANPR camera locations.

Development and growth of the city was briefly mentioned but no specialist PCC officer was available to comment. More development generally means more demand on the transportation systems which is currently too car oriented. Richard Lee claimed future PCC plans would ensure the city remained within legal compliance.

Analysis

My main concern is that PCC considers measures that are ambitious enough, and they don’t mess up the analysis. The report at the end of January will be very significant. Rod Bailey pointed out to me after the meeting that the specific measures were hardly discussed but I think this is unsurprising given PCC are probably working actively on the plan.

The air quality petition conducted earlier this year called for a urgent publication of an air quality plan. This has not happened yet because DEFRA required various actions, including a draft plan by end of Jan 2019.

What Richard Lee said was very promising: PCC are making a serious attempt to reach air quality legal compliance without the shortest possible time. However, I have my doubts that the councillors responsible (or some group in PCC) have the political courage to take strong actions. (If they had the courage, we would not be in the situation we face. Sorry but true).

PCC is right that we need to focus on the city wide situation and not get side tracked by a quick fix caused by DEFRA confusion. I’m still wondering why DEFRA is using their model when it most likely does not have the spatial resolution required. Apart from focusing on the wrong area, the TFS focus on bus pollution is questionable given buses only produce a smaller proportion of NO2 pollution. This suggests that DEFRA are looking for quick fix solutions rather than looking at the bigger picture. However, without DEFRA putting pressure on PCC, I doubt the council would be taking air quality as seriously as they are. Well done DEFRA on this! (although it is really just following the law)

Regarding clean air day, one audience member, from the University of Portsmouth I think, mentioned textures that respond to pollution which is a way for people to understand the usually invisible problem. There was no mention of a temporary road closure as I previously suggested.

As I mentioned, PCC have said that some of their ideas were considered to be “too ambitious” by DEFRA, which is concerned by the cost to taxpayers. This comment is perhaps more dangerous than PCC realizes because DEFRA has previously argued in the High Court that their old plans were “proportionate” considering available resources; the High Court rejected that argument, at least in the planning phase, saying what was proportionate has already been considered by lawmakers, who had specified compliance as soon as possible without reference to cost. I wonder what measures have been privately rejected by DEFRA as too costly… (and ClientEarth will be interested in this little fact I’d expect.)

I reject any suggestion that the state can have any regard to cost in fixing the target date for compliance or in determining the route by which the compliance can be achieved where one route produces results quicker than another. In those respects the determining consideration has to be the efficacy of the measure in question and not their cost. (and) That, it seems to me, flows inevitably from the requirements in the Article to keep the exceedance period as short as possible.

High Court Ruling, Feb 2018

PCC will be comparing the various options to a charging CAZ. However, I’ve since realized that DEFRA has a rather optimistic view of what a CAZ can achieve. They are only moderately effective at reducing NO2 pollution with several German cities finding they result in a one of drop of several percent NO2 levels. We need at least a 10% drop in NO2 in certain areas, which a realistic CAZ might not achieve in the short term. However, I get the feeling DEFRA’s models might overestimate their effectiveness. So the question remains: is the CAZ that PCC models going to be an optimistic or realistic model? An over optimistic CAZ model might actually lead to radical but necessary non-CAZ measures being adopted. This is going to get interesting…

PCC still have not clarified if realistic traffic projections are being used, and if future developments are included or excluded. Air quality planning has previously used lower traffic predictions, while road building has used higher predictions. Consistency on this will be an essential part of PCC’s future plans.

PS I hear Southampton is dropping their CAZ plan, which is probably not good…

PPS The next Portsmouth Climate Extinction Rebellion meet 21st Jan.

Anti-idling signs along London Road (AQMA 6)
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Quick News

The City Council leader recently stated “This Saturday [1st Decembter] is Small Business Saturday. We have many local small businesses and shops run by Portsmouth families and 1st December is all about celebrating how important they are to our communities and the city as a whole. To support the day, we’re making nearby council car parks free to use for the day! Please do consider going out to support your local high street.”

This is not helpful for air pollution or sustainable transport. The council needs to be encouraging public transport, cycling and walking rather than vehicles that cause congestion and pollution.

The next meeting of Portsmouth Extinction Rebellion is on 7th Jan. The group focuses on climate change and non-violent direct action. Background info to Extinction Rebellion:

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Discussion with Portsmouth City Council, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1

Steve Pitt (Culture and Leisure): Lynne, you are absolutely right first of all: there are too many cars on the island. It is a grave[?] situation. I know of a three bedroom house that’s got nine cars, which is absolutely ludicrous. So I’ve got three points. The first one is that there are solutions. 30% of all car journeys in the city centre, right around the world, are people looking for parking spaces. There are technological solutions to that. And I know the officers in Portsmouth City Council have known about at least one of these for at least four[?] years. So that is going to take people with an app to a parking space.

The second point is that in the future we are going to be going electric. Government policy includes[?] diesel/electric so that should solve a lot of the pollution problem. And the third point is that, again, in the future as we get more driverless vehicles, we are going to have fewer cars owned by individuals. Cars spend 90% of the time sitting at the inelastic roadside are [in future] going to be pick-up-and-go cars, that are going to be electrically driven, pollute less, and there will be far fewer on the road. So there is a good long term outcome and that is coming towards us a lot faster than predictions even three or four years ago.

Lynne Stagg: The parking scheme is called AppyParking. That really only applies to places where you pay for parking because you have to have the sensors in the road.

Audience member: You can do it with non-pay parking.

Lynne: Yes I think you can but [we are tackling it] bit by bit. We are putting electric charging points in. We have put in 50 so far. That again is a chicken and egg situation because as well as putting in electric charging points, they have to go in lamp posts because you can’t have trailing flexes into people’s houses. Those will be parking bays specifically only for electric charging of electric cars. But you have got to have enough people wanting electric vehicles, or buying them. They are not cheap. Nick [?] you’ve got one and they are not cheap are they, Nick?

Nick: Well they are not and they’ve reduced the subsidy. 

Lynne: But the more people that get them, the prices will probably go down. So we are reacting as people are asking for them. We have the next list of those wanting to go in. And it’s specifically outside people’s houses or as close as possible, because obviously that is the most sensible thing. I don’t know what will happen if you have a whole street of electric cars but we will look at that as we go along, bit by bit. That is part of the grant, rolling it out as demand comes in.

Alec: I think it is important that Tim mentioned the harbour. That ships themselves are polluters, and therefore I think it would be a good idea to consider the shipping companies and the navy contributing something to this issue.

Lynne: That is already being done. The navy actually plug in. They put in this big electric cable about 18 months ago. So the naval ships aren’t. It’s the ferries, we are having difficulty persuading them, because the reason for that is swift turn around. They tend not to cut their engines because they come in and they’ve got about an hour or so, before they turn around. But we are certainly working with them.

Panellist: Not wishing to be rude, and thank you for doing this unannounced, there were some challenges by Tim. Do you know what year Portsmouth expects to come into legal compliance?

Lynne: 2021 for one of them and 2022 for the other, but I can’t remember which way round it is.

Panellist: And on what basis are you confident of that?

Steve Pitt: I got a briefing from environmental health about a week ago. Please do be assured that the council is going to be held very strongly to account for getting this right. It’s not something we can do, and say “we’ve done the best we can so that will have to do”. There are very, very strict guidelines being laid down by DEFRA, who is now sending a member of their department to Portsmouth every single week, to work with us on this plan. In January [2019], we are expected to come up with a draft plan. If they do not believe it is credible, they can take control of how we manage vapours[?] in the city. If they do not believe in the full business case that we put together at the end of next year is credible, they have the ability to step in. So this is not something that a couple of people are working on to try and tinker around the edges. We are talking it deadly seriously. And we want to make sure that we hit those targets as soon as we can. The deadlines are 2021 and 2022, but if we can get them earlier then we need to do that. But in order to do that, we are going to have to make some very… clear choices around some of those things, for example, on there Tim you have Clean Air Zone. If we don’t do it [reach compliance], it won’t be a choice. That’s how clear this is. Will strong measures be considered in planning? That little list there, that’s not things that might happen, that’s things that DEFRA will do, in Portsmouth, to us, unless we get this right. So please don’t think that we are not taking this seriously, we have to take this deadly seriously. Apart from anything else, we don’t want people breathing air that’s not safe, obviously, because we live here too. We don’t live on a planet elsewhere and beam ourselves down to be councillors in Portsmouth. It’s our home as well. So we are really really clear that we will deliver this. The head of environmental health is working with a big group of officers in the council and we are having to draft in extra people to work on making sure we deliver this. It’s a serious thing and it has to be resolved.

Panellist: Tim, are you reassured? It sounds very convincing.

Tim: What has been said sounds quite interesting. I am definitely looking forward to the January report. So, yeah, fingers crossed. And thanks for filling in because DEFRA seems to get hung up on the wrong area. Thanks for clarifying that.

Lynne: Can I just say I used to teach geography and environmental studies, so I am very keen on improving the environment, right across the board. I’m back this 100%.

Matthew Winnington: I’m also on the cabinet. I’m the health, well-being and social care cabinet member and councillor for this area. So to add on the importance of what both Steve and Lynne have been talking about, because it is a knock on from this, it’s all very well for doing these things for clean air now but what it’s also about is the effects beyond the situation, in terms of people’s public health.  So as the cabinet member in charge of public health, this is all feeding in to what we are doing as well. But in particular, one of the interesting things that has come out in terms of the research that has been going on, on the public health side, on the CCG on the hospitals[?] on the public health as well, is that actually a lot of areas in the city with the worst air pollution issues are also the areas with the worst obesity issues, for adults and children. So something that the council is bidding funding for, is actually to get [?] obesity and activity for children and adults. We should also have additional help for areas with high air pollution, because then we will have people going around, rather than getting a car or getting a taxi or whatever. They will actually be walking and cycling and getting about in a healthy way. Because that is going to have a really good outcomes in the future as well. One of the interesting things about air pollution in the city is that it is giving us a kick to do things in a more wholistic way. Which is about, “let’s get this air clean”, it’s also saying to us “it’s not just about that. Let’s try and help people so they are not in a situation that they are thinking about using polluting things in the first place.” They go about their business in a way that is better for them because it is going to keep them healthier, but also better for the environment because they are not going to be driving around in their cars. And as Lynne as said earlier, if we don’t do anything about cars in the city, we are going to have utter and complete gridlock. So those have to come done. But the best way to do that is by encouragement, and an even better way is for people to make the choice that they are happy to get around using other forms of transport, and keep themselves healthy, rather than “I’ll just go down the road an pick up the children and do my shopping in the car”. So, that’s some of the work that is going on at the edges, but that is really key to making sure we have something sustainable as well. Because otherwise we could just sort this thing out now and ten years down the line, we will just end up doing it all over again.

Audience member: [What would DEFRA do to us if we didn’t produce a credible plan?]

Steve Pitt: They would take control of the policy themselves. And that means instead of us having the ability to draw up a plan that we think works best for Portsmouth, they could do things, for example, enforce a clean air zone on the city. So it is in all of our interests to get this right and do a good job of it, because we need to make sure the decisions we take are also best, economically for Portsmouth, because the economy matters a lot as well to all of us. So the work is crucial. We don’t want DEFRA coming in and saying we are not happy with that, you have not done a good enough job of it, so we are going to take extreme action, we’ll say there’s no cars allowed down that stretch of road. They have that ability.  The government are taking it seriously. DEFRA are taking it seriously. We are taking is seriously but we want to lead on it and come up with a plan that works best for the city, not having government agencies coming down here telling us what to do. [We have enough of that already.]

Analysis coming soon…

Photo by Menno

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Discussion at East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum with Portsmouth City Council

We have a good sized audience at East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum. I gave an overview of the air quality situation and then we had an informal Q&A session with Lynne Stagg (PCC transport) and Steve Pitt (PCC Culture and Leisure). There were some good questions from the audience on air quality policy and solutions. Both PCC councillors had to step in at short notice as the planned speaker Gerald Vernon-Jackson was unavailable. This was probably for the best as Lynne is probably more familiar with the issue.

Audience question: If 50% of the problem comes from diesel, why doesn’t Portsmouth City Council either tax diesels or put in a plan to ban older diesels?

Lynne Stagg: Now let me correct a few things. We have been working on the air pollution problem for quite a while. DEFRA identified two areas that are not compliant: one is the bottom of the M275 and the other is Alfred Road, and they have been done by modelling. The reality is the bottom of the M275 is compliant and has been for a long time.

[Receptor 30 at the bottom of the M275 has been barely under the legal limit since 2014. The annual average in 2017 was 38.5 ug/m3.]

The data we are worried about, and we have been telling DEFRA for several years, is the Fratton Road, Kingston Road, London Road [area], and we are not compliant there and we have not been for a long while. The reason for that is it is very difficult to actually deal with it because it is a corridor, and the geographical nature of the area makes it worse than it would be anywhere else. There is no where for diesel fumes, etc. to escape.

Although diesel is a bigger offender than cars, there are more cars the HGVs, for example. The greatest volume of emissions is coming from cars as a total rather than individually.

ESNF Panel: So you disagree with Tim?

Lynne Stagg: I disagree on that particular point, about the actual amount.

[Lynne Stagg seems to be questioning the chart I took from the PCC commissioned Source Apportionment Study 2017 by AECOM.]

Lynne Stagg: There are a lot of things we could do, and that we are doing. Between 1971 and 2011, the population of Portsmouth went up by 50%. Car ownership went up by just under 300%. There is your problem. There are too many vehicles on the road, it’s a simple as that. We can do lots of things about getting rid of them. One thing […] which is contentious is resident parking zones. Because, for the majority of houses in Portsmouth, there is only room for one car, if you have no off road parking. A lady three weeks back, she came to me and said “I have three cars, what am I supposed to do?” […] get invented an elastic road. When they do, they can stretch it and you can put extra cars on, you can have it. In the mean time, you only have room for one car outside your house. We can take a lot of parked cars off the road. I am very keen on taking the parked cars off [?] Road, North End, because apart from anything else, I know from the [?], people are trying to park, the traffic is held up behind, we’ve got emissions coming out. Cutting engines in when you are waiting in traffic lights, they do it on the continent, I don’t see why we can’t do that here. There are lots of like that, that we are in the process of doing.

[Tim: Is it possible that the fewer cars that remain would be used more heavily? Is there any evidence that reducing residential parking reduces congestion?]

Coming back to London Road, I think we have convinced DEFRA that it is not compliant, and they are listening to us, because we have real evidence and they are just modelling it. We have lots of things in the pipeline. A lot of these things take a long time to do because it’s a chicken and egg situation, for example: I’d like to see more cars get off the road but where are the buses? I’m frustrated, I could come here by the 17 bus. [?] I waited 25 minutes and the bus didn’t turn up! So I ended up getting a taxi. However, we haven’t got a good bus service because people are using their cars. So it’s a catch 22 situation, so there’s lots of things we need to do.

But coming back to polluted air, there was a brilliant documentary 2 or 3 months ago called “The Air We Breathe” with twin brothers who were adopted. One of them [lived?] in Birmingham on a section of road very similar to North End. He did a lot of work, they were measuring the emissions from vehicles and this is how I know that HGVs, although individually give out more fumes because they are diesel. Because the volume of cars is much greater, the amount of emissions from cars is greater than from diesel [HGVs]. He did a lot of work with local shopkeepers who said we couldn’t possibly take cars off the road, they would lose their trade, etc, etc. Anyway, head on social, it didn’t for 24 hours. In that 24 hours, the NO2 emissions were reduced by 30%. They had the buses and cyclists going through, but all the cars and HGVs […] I stopped those 10 years ago because they used to come down London Road, North End.

So, for particulates, there is no work being done on that. They put in trees in tufts, when they did this road closure. And they then washed the leaves of the trees afterwards, because the particulates settle on the leaves. I had no idea before I saw the programme. And they evaporated the water and the amount of particulates was amazingly high. So we need to have more trees in to take up the particulates, not the NO2 maybe. [?] It’s just a lot of these things, if you do one thing, you’ve got to look at the repercussions elsewhere. And I totally agree with you on planning. Steve [Pitt] will back me up. We put in objections when planning applications come in and if we turn down applications, they then go to appeal to an anonymous individual, the inspector in Bristol, who overturns [?] and then we get fined for having turned down [?].

Audience member: You have a pretty picture on here, Tim, of an idle free zone. Have you got a question that I can ask somebody: I passed two taxis today, both by Tesco giving out diesel fumes. How can I ask nicely for them to turn their engine off? [?] he’d take no notice at all. Could we have a little card or something?

Lynne Stagg: I shout out the window of my car and I tell them to turn the engine off. I often shout at cyclists that havn’t got lights on. [?] I was lord mayor [?] there was a cyclist who went through a red light and I said [to the driver] “slow down” and he said “you can’t lord mayor” and I said “watch me”. So I shouted “you have no lights on, we could have killed you. It’s OK of you want to die that’s up to you but I don’t want it on my conscience for the rest of my life.” So there are a lot of things we can do, if we just have the guts to do it.  But we have a lady in Keep Milton Green [actually Tracey McCulloch of Let Pompey Breathe], and she designed one of these idle free things and we are looking at have them made up and having them outside schools, etc. But I think we need them at traffic lights as well. That is what they do in places like Germany. Not everyone will do it but if we put enough pressure on those drivers, they will start doing it because they will be embarrassed. It’s like those those lights flashing up saying you are doing 30 mph in a 20 mph zone. I’ve gone through some of those not realizing and I’ve felt so guilty when they flashed up that I immediately slowed down. It’s not going to happen immediately but it will happen eventually.

Audience member: We could each have little cards that we could each give to the driver, that would be really useful.

Panellist: Lynne, on that point about “you are exceeding 30 mph” signs that flash up, you can’t get machines that say “the level of particulates is exceeding [?]”

Lynne Stagg: I’m sure you can. I don’t know. It’s not my portfolio. [Lynne deals with Transport, not Environment.] I hold the portfolio that causes all the air pollution problems. [With a note of sarcasm:] I am therefore personally responsible for every traffic problem, every parking problem, every air pollution problem in the city. Hands up, I accept that. It’s not my portfolio but I will ask Dave Ashmore.

Menno: I’ve got a question. I appreciate many things have been done over the years. Small things have been done to improve air quality. But as the graph shows that there hasn’t really been any actual change in air quality. So, isn’t it time to take more drastic measures now, because the measures that have been taken have proven not to be effective enough? They havn’t kept up with the increase in traffic around the city. Sure you can actually reduce traffic. Introducing resident parking zones is all well and good but that doesn’t help unless they are implemented across the entire city because you will just move the cars over to the next area. So, I think we really need to implement something more drastic and why not introduce a charging zone in certain areas of the city or in fact the entire island?

Lynne Stagg: I think a lot of businesses will be against that. We have considered, a bit like London… charging… Our city centre is dying anyway. Lots of city centres and shopping centres are, and that is not going to change. So if you actually stop people from coming in, because they have to pay, they are not going to come at all. They are going to go to Southampton and Chichester and wherever. So there is the objection, so we try to do a balancing act. So I think sometimes you have to go around a problem to solve it, rather than head on. We’ve got to get things done by 2021 and 2022 with two of the Air Quality Management Zones. It has to happen. I’m trying to work with the bus company. For example, all the buses have to be retrofitted with Euro 6 diesel. It’s still diesel but it’s much much cleaner. That is going to cost between £1.5 – 2 million. DEFRA is going to give us some of the money, but [the rest] is coming out of our budget. And we have to save, what is it? $4.5 million this year. And the same next year, and I think more the year after. We have shrinking budgets. I’d love to put resident parking zones up across the city. We haven’t  got the staff to do it. We can’t afford the staff, because we haven’t got the money because we paid for other things like retrofitting buses. There is only so far the money will go. We have to try to work within the budget we’ve got and try to pull in money from outside, like from DEFRA. We’ve put in a bid for $120 million to have bus rapid transport, coming from Waterlooville and Havant. Southampton are doing the same thing. The Eclipse route goes to Gosport and Fareham. It’s taken a lot of traffic off the A32 and therefore a lot of the air pollution but it hasn’t solved it. But you have to have something to replace what was going on. I have ideas and then try to find somebody to fund them. I want to have a bus depot in Portsmouth because our buses mostly come from Fareham. We could get bus companies from Eastleigh for example. But every time you do that, you pay for dead time. You have to pay for the driver and the fuel to get them to Fareham, and the pollution. If we had our own bus depot, we could have more buses, cheaper buses, serve a bigger area and hopefully more people would use them. Then get the cars off the road. But that doesn’t happen tomorrow. So there is a plan there. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle: you have a little picture and you have to get all the bits to fit in.

Menno: The plan you are talking about, there is a plan in place, is that going to be published for consultation?

Lynne: Yes because there is an air quality group that has been set up. [To Tim] And you’re involved? [Yes I am.] We’ve got to send that to DEFRA and have it approved by January [2019]. Yes, it will be, because the more people that feed into it… We’ve had meetings with lots of sections of the city. People come up with ideas that we don’t think of. So yes, it will definitely be published and consulted on. The more ideas the better.

[to be continued…]

My slides: .odp, .pdf

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Unboxing of Flow air quality sensor by Plume Labs

Available here, Price: $179

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#LetPompeyBreathe speaking at East Southsea Neighbourhood Forum

I’m speaking right before the leader of Portsmouth City Council. This is going to get interesting! 7pm, Thursday, November 22 , 2018, at the Royal Beach Hotel.

Clean-air campaigner Tim Sheerman-Chase runs the Let Pompey Breathe blog and a petition for cleanup action at https://greenpompey.org.uk/let-pompey-breathe/petition/ Tim will give us the uncomfortable environmental perspective on our situation, how the city is increasingly choking up, and what consequences we may have to live with.

I’m also attending “Air pollution – time for change” with Hampshire Climate Network.

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Impact of Charging Clean Air Zones: Saviour of Cities or a Red Herring?

Given the lack of progress by Portsmouth City Council in addressing air pollution, I began wondering how a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) might be implemented in the city and what effect it might have. There are several types of Clean Air Zones but most interest has been in charging older vehicles that enter busy areas. Since less polluting vehicles attract lesser or no charges, this intended to encourage a shift to less polluting vehicles. This has an impact on residents and businesses that have to replace their vehicles. The revenue from charges is typically invested in sustainable transport.

Arguably, this approach does not go far enough. As even the Portsmouth transport cabinet member says, “We simply have too many vehicles in this city“. Punitive prices could be used to quickly force a change in transport usage, but this is hardly going to be popular.

It is important to remember that our current transport situation is unsustainable. A significant chunk of pollution is created by diesel cars. To comply with air quality law, these vehicles need to be replaced. The question is how we go about doing that in a fair manner considering many people can barely afford the essentials. Studies have found that the economic benefits to health may outweigh the cost of updating vehicles. The necessity to act has already been established in the High Court and for the benefit of public health.

Predicting the impact of CAZ is complicated because people may switch to other forms of transport or cancel their trip completely. Local and national government often use computer models to try and predict the impact on air quality. Alternatively, we can look at how other cities have implemented CAZs however other air quality initiatives and different transport usages complicate the picture. DEFRA has presented a rosy picture of the effectiveness of CAZ. According to a 2017 DEFRA technical report:

From the options considered, establishing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) is the most effective way to bring the UK into compliance with NO2 concentration levels in the shortest possible time (Table Ex.3). […] CAZs are predicted to have their greatest impact on air quality in the year of implementation […], leading to an 18% reduction in NO2 concentrations. […] These projections have been produced from the SL-PCM model.

Birmingham has been told to implement a CAZ. Their projections are slightly less optimistic with a 9% NO2 reduction for a CAZ covering Buses, coaches, taxis, HGVs and LGVs (in jargon, a “class C-CAZ”), up to a 13% NO2 reduction in a CAZ that also covers private cars (“a class D-CAZ”). These are smaller but still significant improvements. However, these predictions don’t seem to match the experience cities that have already implemented similar zones. According to other DEFRA reports, CAZ projects around Europe have been effective in reducing particulate pollution but have a limited impact on NO2 levels. Germany has been most successful in reducing NO2 pollution using CAZ probably because their schemes include private cars. Outside of Germany, most CAZ schemes ignore private cars and have generally seen no NO2 improvements. Lisbon is also an exception which has reduced NO2 by 1-7% because they including private cars in their CAZ scheme. According to a review of CAZ schemes:

In German cities reductions in annual mean PM10 and NO2 concentrations up to 7% and 4% respectively due to the implementation of an LEZ have been reported. […] In other countries the picture is much more mixed with no effects [on NO2] generally being observed. This may be explained by the German LEZs restricting passenger cars, particularly diesel cars as well as HDVs.[Heavy Duty Vehicles …] Many of the studies, however, have used simple statistical methods that have not taken sufficient account of the confounding factors that affect urban air quality.

This finding is repeated in the London Low Emission Zone, which did not include cars in their scheme and have seen no appreciable drop in NO2. (London has recently started charging older vehicles which might help.) Similar results were seen in the Netherlands. A study of CAZ in Beijing, which only included light duty goods vehicles, predicted a fairly minor drop of 2% in NO2 levels.

In summary, Clean Air Zones are only effective in tackling NO2 levels if private cars are included in the charging scheme. This targets diesel cars, which are a major source of pollution in cities. Even if private cars are included, the impact of a charging CAZ may be less than predicted by current modelling. This might be due to different vehicle usage in the UK compared to European cities, but I doubt that is significant enough to account for the discrepancy. Portsmouth needs about a 10% drop in NO2 to come into legal compliance.

Given that we need a strong tool to improve air quality, we can look at cities that have banned older diesel vehicles. Older diesel bans are being introduced in some London neighbourhoods, as well as several German cities. We should watch their progress closely to see if improvements can be achieved elsewhere.

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