Brighton & Hove council has expressed concerns over a lack of available funding support from government to tackle air pollution, and raised questions over air quality compliance projections for the city.
The council’s deputy leader Councillor Gill Mitchell has written to the city’s three MPs calling for them to highlight a lack of available funding open to the council for measures to address air quality in the city.
Brighton & Hove council had submitted a bid to the government’s clean bus fund for £1.7 million to retrofit buses in the city, which was unsuccessful.
The council had used previous Defra funding to fit 76 buses and 22 taxis with cleaner emissions technology, and had hoped to extend this programme to 95 further buses.
The local authority is not one of the those named within the government’s air quality plan as being unlikely to meet air quality limit values by 2020, and is therefore not eligible for any of the available funding sources being provided by government to support councils in addressing the issue.
According to projections published in the government’s plan based upon the Pollution Climate Mapping (PCM) model, the Brighton/Worthing/Littlehampton area is forecast to comply with the 40µg/m3 annual mean limit for nitrogen dioxide – and has therefore not been mandated to take any further action by government.
The authority has expressed doubts over the forecasts, based on the results from the government’s air quality monitoring network – which it has suggested ‘may not be representative’ of the wider air quality in the area.
In the letter to the Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas and Hove MP Peter Kyle, the council has claimed that government has changed focus from “local authority information to national assessment results”.
Councillor Mitchell wrote: “I would be pleased if you could draw ministers’ attention to these basic problems with the national air quality model that are now potentially excluding Brighton and Hove from accessing funding, not just from Defra but possibly the DfT and the Office of Low Emission Vehicle grants to the value of many millions.
“We have improved air quality in the city by making full use of the grants we have received for cleaner vehicles and firmer evidence and have plans to do more.”
She added: “According to our monitoring data for North Street and Western Road in Brighton, lower emission buses have had a sizeable effect over the last five years on the quality of the air that we breathe, bringing us closer to legal limits. But there is a lot more to do.”
According to the council, the only air quality monitoring station in the city feeding into the national air quality monitoring network is in Preston Park which shows the council to be ‘compliant’ with national objectives. Another station is situated in nearby Worthing.
Councillor Mitchell added: “By only monitoring the results of just these two stations, the national assessment is not presenting a representative picture of air quality in the city and classifies us as ‘compliant’ even though we have two established Air Quality Management Areas demonstrating local exceedances.
“Defra is now focusing on its national model and assessment results and not on local evidence provided by local authorities. We are fearful that the government has, in effect, dropped the Brighton-Worthing-Littlehampton agglomeration from its National Air Quality Action Plan