Sam began his presentation by outlining the current statutory duties that the council are responsible for. These include an Annual Status Report which is scrutinised and appraised by DEFRA and an annual review of measures in the Air Quality Action Plan. Brighton and Hove council have monitored levels of particulate matter and Nitrogen Dioxide since the mid 1990’s when the Environment Act 1995 placed a duty on Local Authorities to assess air quality. The council have monitors thoughout Brighton & Hove. The Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) includes the centre of Brighton with focus on the A23 corridor, North Street, Western Road, Queens Road and the train station, where there are currently 60 active air quality monitors; including automatic analysers and diffusion tubes.

As Sam mentioned, Brighton does not have much industry. Therefore, the local air quality is most influenced by road traffic emissions. This factor together with the high population density and transport corridors in the city centre have contributed to a number of roads including North Street to be above the legal limit of NO2. In order to monitor and combat this, Brighton and Hove Council have chosen to focus on NO2 emissions as this pollutant is easy to monitor at a local scale.

Paul Nicholls from Brighton and Hove Council began his presentation by outlining the past and current strategies the council have initiated in order to improve air quality. As early as 2005, the council began to support low emission vehicles by introducing a 50% discount for parking permits. This was in response to levels of CO2 as the result of global warming. Since then, the council has implemented the first electric vehicle charging points outside of London (2009), introduced resident parking schemes and converted 83% of heavy vehicles owned by the council to category EURO V or higher.

One of the major successes of the council is the Low Emission Zone that was set up in January 2015 covering North Street and Western Road, an area where 98% of the buses in Brighton pass through. The LEZ zone is enforced using existing bus lane cameras and requires 100% of buses to be Euro V or better by 2019. Paul first began looking to set up a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) back in 2013 when there were only 2 LEZ zones outside in London, in Norwich and Oxford. One of the key decisions in setting up the LEZ was ensuring that the targets implemented by the Council and the bus companies were challenging enough to ensure that the levels of NO2 in the city centre were reduced from 70  µg/m3 in 2014 to 40 µg/m3.

The council faced a number of challenges when setting up the LEZ. One of these challenges was the potential to put too much pressure on the bus companies to convert their fleet, in turn leading to an increase in bus fares and causing the public to turn to cars once again. In order to avoid this, a number of consultations took place between the council and the bus companies in order to ensure that they continued to use the LEZ for their routes and that additional costs did not impact on bus passenger numbers. Paul also stated that if any changes were made to the Low Emission Zone, such as expanding it to include St. James Street or private vehicles, the support of the bus companies and evidence of the beneficial effects would be needed.

Further to the LEZ, the council has a number of other initiatives to reduce emissions in Brighton and Hove. These include:
• a one minute engine switch off policy whilst in the LEZ and increased awareness of engine idling
• Monitoring of real time tailpipe emissions as joint Brighton and Hove Buses project with Ricardo
• Further development and cross operator acceptance of Smart Keys to reduce boarding times
• Expansion of bus lane enforcement to keep bus lanes clear
• Review of traffic light sequencing; and
• Better Bus Area funding for bus lanes

Current air quality data has shown a decrease in levels of NO2 at North Street and levels of PM 2.5 at Preston Park over a 5 year trend. The council’s efforts should lead to a further decrease in pollution levels over the next few years. This will be further helped by the positive actions in Brighton such as the Bikeshare scheme and behavioural change in transport choices.

After speaking to Paul and Samuel, it is clear that they recognise the important role of communication and cooperation in order to efficiently implement air pollution reduction strategies in the City. Breathe in Brighton hope to work together with Brighton & Hove Council, bringing together the communities thoughts and ideas in order to ensure that all efforts to combat air pollution are in the best interest of our health, our community and the city.

Lizzie Murray-Clark

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