Limbo dancing under the legal limit

We gave a short speech at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Management meeting today on the proposed Clean Air Zone:

Thank you, Chair, for giving me the opportunity to speak to the Committee. Last year, we responded to the consultation on the proposed Clean Air Zone by saying that there was too much uncertainty in the modelling. The modelling has since been re-run and we still see uncertainty. We have submitted a report to this Committee, written by Dr Claire Holman, who is an air quality consultant. Her analysis suggests that the Council is still running the risk of failing one of Justice Garnham’s three tests, as established during the cases brought by ClientEarth – that the hoped-for improvement in air quality should be likely, not just possible.

Today you are looking at a proposal which is an attempt at limbo-dancing under the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide, in order to avoid a fine. This proposal is asking you to put your trust in data produced using certain assumptions. One of these is that diesel cars will be as clean in real life as in laboratory tests.  Another is to accept the idea that the limited options proposed by the City Council will effect lasting change and protect our health.

As you know 40ug/m3 of nitrogen dioxide is the legal limit. Unfortunately it is not a safe limit. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) last year advised the Government that there is, indeed, no safe limit for exposure to nitrogen dioxide.

We recognise that the City Council has been put in this position by the Government’s attempt to comply with the legal limit. The pressure to act has resulted in an inadequate and sadly underfunded instruction from the Minister.

When you look closely at the points of exceedance on the map of Southampton, it becomes obvious that it is not sufficient to work solely within the City boundary. 50,000 people leave the city each day for work and 50,000 come in to Southampton to work. One million containers arrive in the city each year. Over three million cruise and ferry passengers come here each year. Air pollution has no boundaries and many people who live along the city boundary and may be in a neighbouring authority are receiving no consideration at all. This is because the M27 and M271, the most polluted locations, are under the management of Highways England. A major failing in this proposal is that there is no clear plan for working with Highways England, who have a £100m Air Quality fund, and who could benefit the city enormously if they could think of solutions for the roads they manage.

We will be writing to our local MPs to ask them to raise a Parliamentary Question to find out what Highways England are doing to ensure compliance along the motorways, as this is so important for the City.

Ironically, the proposed Class B Clean Air Zone would, according to the Council’s own analysis, have helped to reduce the pollution problems on the surrounding motorways and ultimately benefitted us all by offering more of a chance of delivering a healthier environment. The cost-benefit analysis shows the net benefit of implementing a Class B Clean Air Zone is in excess of £15m over the period 2020 to 2030 and also avoids the deliverability risks of non-charging options. Why was this dismissed during the decision-making process?

The list of actions proposed by the City Council are acknowledged in their report to have a negligible effect on air quality. We would have wished for more imaginative and effective ways of intervening than those presented. We strongly urge this Committee to reconsider the whole proposal and suggest measures which would have more impact on air quality in the City be added. It will be 2021 before we know if these limited proposals have had any effect on air quality in Southampton and our children and grandchildren are relying on us to take wise decisions.

We have further outstanding questions about the modelling used and have asked the relevant authorities for further information. We hope to receive this in the next few days. We will be happy to share this with you.

Thank you.

Liz Batten, Mandi Bissett, Colin MacQueen

Clean Air Southampton

Southampton City Council’s Proposed Clean Air Zone

Clean Air Southampton’s response to the Proposed Clean Air Zone

Following the public consultation on the Clean Air Zone last summer, Southampton City Council has decided against introducing a charging zone, and has now proposed other measures aimed at achieving the legal limit for Nitrogen Dioxide in the city. The council’s updated documentation has been published here, ahead of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee meeting later today (Wednesday 16th January, 5.30pm).

We commissioned an expert to review these updated reports and her analysis is available here.

We have submitted this analysis together with the following summary to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee. Our request to give a short spoken submission to the Committee has also been approved.

1. The third of Lord Garnham’s tests (as established in the second case brought by ClientEarth) may not be met with a non-charging Clean Air Zone. His three tests are: (a) as soon as possible (b) by the quickest route possible and (c) by a means that make that outcome likely. The City Council appears not to have fully considered the issue of “likely, not just possible” because there are several locations where exceedance remains a possibility, given the uncertainty in the modelling.
2. There are seven points on the periphery of the city boundary (along the M27 and M271) which will remain in exceedance in 2020 and which are the responsibility of Highways England. A Class B Clean Air Zone would have had a significant impact on the concentrations along the motorways as well as along Southampton City Council roads. There is no information in the public domain about Highways England’s plans for meeting the limit value in these locations. We shall be approaching local MPs to ask if one of them is willing to ask a Parliamentary Question to find out what Highways England are doing to ensure compliance along the motorways, as this is so important for the City.
3. The cost-benefit analysis shows the net benefits of implementing a Class B Clean Air Zone appear to be in excess of £15m over the period 2020 to 2030 and also avoids the deliverability risks of non-charging options. Why was this dismissed during the decision-making process?

The Cabinet will be meeting on 22nd January at 10am in the Guildhall to consider the updated proposal for the Clean Air Zone.

Clean Air Zone consultation 2018

Clean Air Southampton’s response to Southampton City Council’s Clean Air Zone consultation 2018

On this page is our submission to the Southampton City Council (SCC) Clean Air Zone (CAZ) consultation 2018[1]. It comprises a large number of comments and questions based on the background documentation provided by SCC and guidance documents from the DfT/Defra Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) (only available via a request under the Environmental Information Regulations). In order to be able to formulate these (as yet unanswered) questions, it has taken a significant amount of time for 2 people to read all the documents; a 2 hour meeting with the Chief Scientific Officer & Senior Communications Officer at SCC; plus attendance at 2 Open Meetings on the CAZ consultation. We have worked on air quality issues for Clean Air Southampton for over 3 years and as such are not laypeople with respect to the topic of air quality.

Our questions and concerns document is available here:

In view of the large number of questions, we commissioned an expert review of the consultation documents. This is available here:

We submit these comments, questions and the expert report as evidence that the consultation process was:

(a) not transparent;
(b) not accessible to laypeople; and
(c) does not meet Justice Garnham’s three tests of compliance.

We would also like to highlight the following:

  1. The scope of the consultation is almost entirely concerned with a discussion of the ‘preferred option’ (a city-wide Class B zone) and does not provide evidence or analysis for a more stringent class of Clean Air Zone (a Class C or D zone).
  2. The decision to remove a Class C or D CAZ from consideration, at some point prior to the launch of the consultation, is not clearly explained in any way in the consultation documents. Also no documentation is provided which shows the process that was followed for this decision.
  3. The removal of more stringent classes of CAZ as an option prior to instructing Ricardo to carry out air quality modelling (both of the current and projected situation) fails to provide a full assessment of the costs, benefits and efficacy of each of the potential options.
  4. The Government’s clean air policy, expressed through advice from the Joint Air Quality Unit, has forced Southampton City Council to work exclusively on meeting the EU 40ug/m3 target, in one location in the city, with no regard to the health of all citizens and the many other hot spots affecting health.
  5. The preferred option appears to be based on optimistic modelling, out of date data and a lack of agreement with major stakeholders (Highways England, ABP) as to emissions reductions in areas under their responsibility. To adopt an air quality plan based on such assumptions and uncertainty is unlikely to lead to compliance.
  6. The lack of ambition inherent in the preferred option is not only likely to lead to the EU limit value not being achieved for Southampton, but also worsening of public health outcomes[2] for a city which already has the highest rate of emergency admissions to hospital for asthma in the whole of the South.


[2] Asthma UK has data showing that Southampton has a higher rate of emergency admission for asthma than anywhere else in the south of England: (take the slider on the right of the page up to 140)