Green campaigners have called for diesel cars to be banned from Oxford roads – after it took little over a month for the city to exceed its air pollution limit.
Illustrations of protesters holding signs saying “diesel is breaking the limit” appeared in High Street and St Aldate’s last week after it was revealed a busy London street became the first in the UK to break annual legal air pollution limits after just a month.
It didn’t take Oxford long to follow, with High Street ticking over the mean nitrogen dioxide limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre on Monday.
Oxford Greenpeace volunteer Julia Spragg said the best way to tackle the ‘crisis’ – in Oxford and across the UK – is to get diesel off the roads – and fast.
“I’m really pleased that in Oxford steps are being taken to tackle this crisis and to get diesel off our roads with the phasing in of low emission zones,” she said.
“But the government should further support and fund local authorities to implement clean air zones in towns and cities and bring forwards the UK’s phase-out date for diesel and petrol cars by at least a decade to 2030.”
John Tanner, city council board member for a clean and green Oxford, accepted improvements are needed in Oxford but defended improving pollution levels in the city.
He said: “Greenpeace’s clean air campaign does them credit but it would be more effective if Greenpeace got their facts right.
“Pollution has fallen by a third in Oxford in the last 10 years but is still above the safe and legal level in some streets in the city centre.
“Even so, levels of pollution in Oxford are much, much less than on main roads in London and Birmingham. “
Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council want to tackle pollution levels by introducing a small Zero Emission Zone in 2020, expanding the ZEZ to include the whole city centre by 2030.
A report produced by Oxfordshire MEP Keith Taylor revealed 24 of Oxford’s 70 monitoring sites have NO2 pollution levels above legal limits.
It added that NO2 emissions are worst in St Clements Street, with average annual levels almost 70 per cent higher than legal limits.
Sixteen of the 24 sites over the legal limit were in Carfax or on the Carfax/Holywell border in the city centre.
“Oxford is among the 15 most polluted cities in the UK and the toxic air is having hugely negative health impacts on the city’s residents,” Mr Taylor said.