Portsmouth Air Quality

Air pollution in Portsmouth is a public health crisis.  Poor air quality has been linked to many serious health conditions including heart disease, breathing problems and Alzheimer’s. Most pollution in Portsmouth is caused by road traffic, particularly in the form of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) released by diesel vehicles. The EU and UK government specified maximum legal NO2 limits that were to be met by 2010. However, some roads in Portsmouth often exceed this limit. Portsmouth City Council is responsible for reducing pollution to safe limits.

There is no safe level of exposure to diesel fumes and we should be targeting a pollution level that is significantly below the legal limit. Apart from NO2 levels, pollution from particulates is also a concern in Porsmouth.

Recent Headlines and Events

13 March 2014 Congested Portsmouth roads gives city high air pollution level, The News

Portsmouth experiences a Daily Air Quality Index of 8, in which people are advised to reduce strenuous activity outdoors.

12 May 2016, Portsmouth named on pollution danger list, The News

"Portsmouth is among towns and cities across Britain and Ireland have been named and shamed by the World Health Organisation for breaching safety levels for air pollution."

27 June 2016, Warning as Portsmouth’s air quality nears ‘unsafe levels’, The News

This headline is rather misleading as the air quality has already reached unsafe levels! Janet Maxwell, the director of public health at Portsmouth City Council said "Air pollution is a serious problem in Portsmouth... We need to significantly reduce cars in the city."

5 May 2017, UK Government releases a very weak air quality strategy after being forced by a high court challenge.

Caroline Lucas pointed out it "fails to tackle the important issues affecting the most vulnerable... In fact, it’s not so much a plan, but a plan to have a plan."

Ian Johnston in the Independent wrote: 'The Government’s latest Air Quality Plan sought to pass the buck to a large degree to councils, saying they were “best placed to take the lead”' "Exclusive poll for The Independent shows public – and most Conservative voters – back banning the most-polluting cars from city centres as pressure builds on the Government"

26 May 2017, The Green party release the "Polluted Cities" report

"Half measures are not good enough, we urgently need bold action" Keith Taylor MEP

20 Sept, 2017 Public Health Annual Report draft published

In Portsmouth, "[air] pollution causes an estimated health burden equivalent to another 100 deaths a year"

28 Sept, 2017 Major Portsmouth road is breaking air quality rules, The News

Rachel Hudson, from Portsmouth Friends of the Earth said "Portsmouth has always put cars first instead of other transport options such as cycling and walking. This needs to change."

9 Oct 2017 The Green Party launches the "Breathing Cities" campaign to make London, Bristol, Leeds, Oxford, and Sheffield zero emission zones by 2023.

2 Nov 2017 Keith Taylor MEP speaks at a public meeting on Portsmouth Air Quality at MAKE in Fratton, chaired by Mike Wines. Full report available. Coverage in The News#LetPompeyBreathe

22 Nov 2017 Portsmouth Green Party launches the #LetPompeyBreathe facebook page. #LetPompeyBreathe is a joint initiative involving Portsmouth Green Party, Portsmouth Friends of The Earth, Milton Neighbourhood Forum and other groups concerned with the dangerous state of Portsmouth’s Air Quality.

Portsmouth City Council are expected to publish an Action Plan in the "near future" (although there is no firm timeline for this) which adds detail to their recent Air Quality Strategy.

Response to Portsmouth's Air Quality Strategy

17 July 2017, Summary of Deputation to PCC Traffic and Transportation Cabinet Meeting

Portsmouth Green Party’s Tracey McCulloch proposed that the draft Air Quality Strategy 2017-2027 document was not accepted in its current form. PGP was one of many who responded to the consultation, highlighting a number of concerns which were also published in the press.

Our main concerns are:

  1. Not sufficient clarification and explanation why responses from the public consultation have not been adopted despite overwhelming feedback urging need for measurable, specific and time bound outcomes.
  2. We welcome the amendment to: 'Investigate the role that green infrastructure can play in Portsmouth in helping to remove contaminants in the air'. However there is no detail about how this will be investigated and when, given that we should be planting trees now to benefit our children and grandchildren in the future. In particular, what studies or inventories has PCC already taken of the city's existing tree stock.
  3. It seems premature to adopt this document when the government is due to publish its new air quality plan on 31st July 2017. It was previously criticized as inadequate, for reasons such as - an absence of effective new measures, insufficient local powers, weak national leadership, and insufficient flexibility. PCC has already acknowledged that new obligations may be placed on local authorities following publication of the government’s revised plan.
  4. It was not made clear in the consultation process that this document is not an Action Plan. Without an Action Plan, the public is not aware of the timescale or process, what the financial implications are or the resources necessary, or if there will be further consultation regarding the ACTIONS.
  5. To reiterate objections made during the consultation: the report is lacking in exactitude; measurable targets; transparency in terms of locations of Air Quality Management Areas past and present. These are details that are relevant to supporting a fully developed strategy. To strive to consistently work towards achieving AQ standards does not demonstrate commitment and determination to tackle this serious problem. There is a complete absence of strategy if there is no detail of monitoring, measurables, time-bound outcomes etc.
  6. The document highlights progress so far, yet this list of ‘achievements’ is not accompanied by any evidence by which the public can judge their success or otherwise. There are also no specifics regarding: partnerships, collaboration, methodologies…
  7. The report to this committee only refers to the percentage of respondents who agreed with the draft document, not the 49.1% who did not agree. This is a considerable weight of opinion that has been disregarded.

Despite these problems, the Local Air Quality strategy was adopted by the council.

Publication of the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR)

Traffic in North End causes significant pollution

21 September 2017, Full report

Portsmouth City Council operates a network of pollution monitoring stations throughout the city. Portsmouth currently has five air quality management areas where levels of NO2 are of particular concern. These include the area from Fratton Bridge via Kingston road to London Road in North End, the High Street in Old Portsmouth, the Eastern Road along Milton Common, Mile End Road as it turns into the M275, and Queens Street by the Naval Base. 

NO2 diffusion tube (NDDT) monitoring found unsafe NO2 levels at 6 sites (above the allowed annual mean NAQO of 40μg/m3), mostly in the air quality management areas above. The highest NO2 readings were recorded at The Tap pub in North End (49μg/m3). The Northern Road area in Cosham and Albert Road in Southsea both show signs of significant deterioration.

The continuous NO2 monitoring program found an increase in NO2 most sites since 2015. "[Compared to 2015, the] 2016 NO2 annual mean level increased across the four [continuous monitoring sites] ... to result in a worsening in LAQ [Local Air Quality]. The maximum recorded concentration was at London Road kerbside CAQMS (41.21μg/m3). This level breaches the NO2 annual mean NAQO" However, the 5 year trend from most of these sites is broadly unchanging (i.e. dangerously high).


"Polluted Cities" report by the Green Party on how the UK Governments plan will impact our cities

Caroline Lucas: “We must have a new Clean Air Act to protect the health of future generations”, 5th May 2017

ClientEarth on Air Pollution

Friends of the Earth NO2 monitoring