On Clean Air Day residents in Portsmouth were thanked for their efforts to reduce air pollution in the city and told to 'keep up the good work'.
The message comes as an air quality report is being submitted to Portsmouth City Council's cabinet meeting that shows that in the first three months of operation nearly all vehicles (95 per cent) travelling through the recently installed Clean Air Zone (CAZ) in Portsmouth were compliant with the zone, meaning their emissions were in line with government-set standards. This indicates that the work the council has done to upgrade the most polluting vehicles has been a big success.
Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: "We've seen in recent years a real appetite from everyone in Portsmouth to play their part and reduce air pollution in the city for the good of our health and the wellbeing of the city's children and vulnerable residents. These recent results are encouraging as people are making positive choices.
"As a city we're perfectly formed for people that want to cycle, walk, rent an e-scooter or take the bus, and nearly all our taxis are also compliant with the most recent regulations, meaning there's never been a better reason to leave the car at home and be part of a change for the future."
The Air Quality Quarterly Report is being presented to cabinet on Tuesday 21 June. The report details the effects of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ), that was introduced to the city in November 21, as well as the range of ways the council is working to reduce air pollution in Portsmouth.
According to the report, since the CAZ was introduced on 29 November 2021 until the end of February 2022, an average of 44 vehicles were charged to enter the zone each day. One third (35%) of these vehicles were issued with a penalty charge notice, meaning they didn't pay the charge on time and had to be reminded.
By February, the average number of penalty charge notices issued was 14 a day, which is slightly down from when the zone first launched in November.
One of the reasons compliance rates are so high is because the council is working towards making Portsmouth a healthier and happier city with air quality and climate change at the heart of its decisions and actions. Before the CAZ was operational, only 3 per cent of vehicles operating within Portsmouth were HGVs, buses and coaches, but they accounted for 24 per cent of NOx emissions.
The council secured government funding to support the upgrade of 69 HGVs, 162 buses and coaches, and 119 taxis and private hire vehicles, including 26 wheelchair accessible vehicles. All of these vehicles, including 97 per cent of all taxis and private hire vehicles licensed in Portsmouth, are now compliant with the CAZ.
Other ways the council is working to reduce air pollution include funding businesses to enable their staff to cycle and walk to work through the Workplace Sustainable Travel Fund, and switching to greener fuel for the city's refuse vehicles.
Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK. Every year, between 28,000-36,000 deaths in the UK are thought to be caused by air pollution. Studies have shown that long-term exposure reduces life expectancy and exasperates pre-existing conditions such as breathing and heart-related diseases. Short-term exposure to higher levels of air pollution can also affect asthma, and increase rates of hospital admissions and death.
Reducing air pollution in the city is the responsibility of everyone. As a resident there are measures that you can take to improve the air we breathe.
- Switch your engine off when you're waiting at traffic lights, in traffic queues and when dropping off and collecting people. Even switching off for one minute makes a difference, and for some newer cars, switching off for two seconds reduces pollution. Remember 'cough cough, engine off'
- Consider making your next vehicle an electric vehicle. The council has installed around 100 on-street charging points in the city to help people make the switch when the time is right.
- Choose to cycle if you can. The council has produced a map of quieter cycle routes to help you - https://www.portsmouth.gov.uk/
- Take the bus. The council has teamed up with First Solent and Hampshire County Council to secure £6.5 million to replace 35 diesel buses with new electric buses on three key routes across the city, improving air quality across four of Portsmouth's air pollution hot spots
- Rent an e-scooter. If you're a new user you can use the code CLEANAIR22 to get 15mins of free riding between the 15th and 19th of June.