Winchester City Council draft Air Quality Action Plan for the city centre sets out what the Council intends to do to reduce the nitrogen dioxide emissions at traffic hotspots in St George’s Street, Romsey Road and Chesil Street.

See WinACC's response to the consultation and our accompanying detailed critique of the draft plan. We're pleased that the City Council is updating its plan. But to our disappointment,  the actions set out in the plan probably won't be enough to reduce air pollution to get within legal limits by 2020, the Government deadline.

WinACC was on a Council Steering Group that looked at what could be done.  But the City Council and not the Steering Group  decided what actions to put in the plan. it includes only actions which don't need partners such as Hampshire County Council (the lead local authority for transport in Winchester District).

The plan does not include the two most popular actions that the public twice voted for in our pollution poll - to restrict vehicle access to the town centre (only residents, taxis, disability and delivery vehicles) and more pedestrian areas in the town centre, both of which would cut pollution down to legal limits.

Actions in the draft plan include changes to parking charges, investigating a new park-and-ride car park, banning big diesel vehicles, considering a pollution surcharge, and making consideration of air quality impacts an integral part of the planning process - all of which WinACC supports. We would also have liked it to include, as options for the future, a congestion charge (ie pay to drive into the town centre at peak times) and a workplace levy on companies whose staff park in town.

Feedback will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet in April 2017, along with the final Air Quality Action Plan.

The draft Air Quality Action Plan was developed following a year of evidence-gathering, discussions (including at a WinACC and FoE meeting last July) and debate by members at the Council covering transport, parking, health, business and the environment.

New air quality monitoring equipment is now in place in St George’s Street and Chesil Street. So the Council will be able to see the impact of this plan, and promises to review it once a year and to make more changes if they are needed to comply with legal limits by 2020.

Dave Ingram, the City Council's lead officer on air quality, has already promised to come to a WinACC public meeting on 12 December 2017 so that we can look at the results of this year's plan and consider what extra steps needs to be taken in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Council was pleased to announce on 20 January the news from their "independent monitoring consultants that for the first time in 2016 there was no breach of statutory emissions levels at the bottom of St George’s Street."

Cllr Jan Warwick, the Council’s new Portfolio Holder for Environment, said:

We are delighted to learn of the improvements to air quality on St George’s Street, but we are not complacent. There are still other challenges to tackle in the city, and the current improvements have to be maintained for three consecutive years in order to officially ‘un-declare’ an air quality management area. Nevertheless, this is a really good step forward - and an encouraging way to start 2017.