Winchester air quality improving but council 'not complacent'

Air quality is improving in Winchester according to a new report by the city council.

Data shows that more areas of central Winchester are now meeting national standards for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), an environmental pollutant. Several of the main routes into and out of Winchester’s city centre, such as Andover Road, Chesil Street, St Cross Road and Alresford Road, which have historically exceeded legal limits for NO2, are now showing compliance according to monitoring across 2019.

These locations are part of the city centre’s ‘Air Quality Management Area’ meaning they are subject to an action plan to achieve reductions in air pollution levels to meet national targets. There is a general reduction in NO2 across the designated area, and further parts of the zone are expected to show compliance by 2021 if trends continue.

The council has implemented a range of measures to deliver air quality improvements at the NO2 hotspots across the city, including introducing Park & Ride sites, car parking pricing zones, the development of air quality focused planning standards and sustainable transport strategies. Levels of NO2 are also improving due to the adoption of cleaner engine technology.

Plans are in development to further promote greener and cleaner ways to travel, such as walking, cycling alongside increasing the use public transport and electric vehicles. This is in line with the council’s priority to tackle the climate emergency and reduce carbon emissions. The council is also currently consulting on a Parking & Access strategy aimed at reducing the reliance on cars for travel into Winchester and in markets towns across the district.

Councillor Jackie Porter, Cabinet Lead for Built Environment and Wellbeing, said:

“It is good news for people who live, work and visit Winchester that more areas of the city are now reaching legal limits for NO2. But this is not a signal for complacency. It remains the case that while NO2 levels are falling, traffic levels in central Winchester are unsustainably high.

“We will continue to work with partners and businesses to support the changes needed to meet national standards and deliver a reduction in carbon emissions from transport to meet the climate emergency.

“Meeting limits for NO2 are one important measure of success, but we are taking action to promote walking, cycling and cleaner vehicles such as electric cars to further clean up the city’s air. Individuals can help by choosing greener ways to travel where possible, turning off engines when stationary or keeping vehicles in good working order.”

Winchester City Council has a target to be carbon neutral as an organisation by 2024 and for the district to be carbon neutral by 2030. Transport is a significant contributor to the current levels of carbon emissions.

Air pollution has been identified by Public Health England as the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Evidence shows that it can cause or worsen a range of lung and heart conditions including asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic heart disease and stroke. Emissions from transport are also a major contributor to climate change.

Subject to formal approval by its Cabinet, the council aims to apply to DEFRA to reduce the size of the city’s air quality management area in 2021 to properly represent the areas of continued high NO2 levels, using monitoring data up to the end 2020. This will enable ongoing focus on areas that need further work to drive down pollution.