Agenda item

Agenda item

Annual Air Quality Status Report

Cllr Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport & Zero Carbon Oxford; Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy; Amanda Ford, Environmental Quality Team Manager; and Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer have been invited to attend for this item.

Consideration by the Committee in October 2020 of the previous annual report did not conclude with any recommendations to Cabinet.


Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer, introduced the annual report which  fulfilled a statutory duty and provided an overview of all monitoring data for the year and an update in relation to the  air quality actions set out in the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan 2021-2025. 

The previous year had been atypical given the consequences of Covid and significantly reduced traffic volumes. As a result of this, for the first time since air quality monitoring started in Oxford, there were significant reductions in air pollution levels and the city had been compliant with all short and long term UK air quality objectives. The highest annual mean however continued to be in St Clements.

The Committee noted the importance of being able to monitor the consequences of the introduction of LTNs on air pollution, particularly where traffic had been displaced as a result. The Air Quality Officer said that working in partnership with the County Council, air quality was being measured at an additional 16 sites to capture the consequences of LTNs. In discussion it was noted that while measuring values within an LTN was likely to  be directly attributable to the LTN, measuring those outside it might well be the consequence of other unrelated traffic flow considerations. A detailed briefing on air quality for all Councillors would take place the following day.

Live, accessible,  reporting a of air quality  was agreed to be of potentially great benefit for the city’s residents and might usefully extend to the provision of real time alerts. It was a source of regret that there were only three live monitoring points in the city. The Air Quality Officer confirmed the intention to make the live data available in due course - as part of the development of a new air quality website for Oxfordshire, a joint project that is being delivered by Oxford City Council together with the other District Councilss. He noted however that the number of live reporting instruments was constrained by their considerable expense and other costs associated with their use. While a considerable number of air monitoring devices were commercially  available, not all were reliable. Monitoring for the purposes of the statutory return necessitated the  consistent use of devices of a recognised quality to ensure valid and comparable data over time. Data from the city’s 71 diffusion tubes -provide monthly means, which are then aggregated into an annual mean for comparison against the NO2 air quality mean limit value.

Concerns about the use of wood burning stoves would be addressed by information programmes to draw attention to the impact of their use and advice about best practice in relation to their use.

Given the role of the County Council as highways authority, the importance of a close working relationship with it was recognised and the Air Quality Officer confirmed that there was close co-operation in relation to analysing the consequences of LTNs. He noted that at least 9 months of continuous monitoring were needed before any firm conclusions could be drawn.  The Committee noted that meaningful conclusions would need to be informed by traffic monitoring by the County and clarity, for example,  of whether journeys were  directly attributable to the introduction of an LTN or something else. 

Given the significance of both universities as employers in the City  (and as the ‘home’ of thousands of students), the council might  offer advice to inform their strategic plans in relation to matters of air quality.  

It would be helpful if any educational graphics prepared about matters to do with air quality could be distributed as a matter of course to all Councillors and community groups.

The Committee agreed to recommend to Cabinet that Council:

·         Reviews the location of its air quality monitoring equipment to support the monitoring of roads where there is the possibility of displacement traffic generated by LTNs, particularly around Hollow Way and the junction with Crescent Road,  that the Council makes publicly available the findings as soon as possible when the Cowley, Headington and East Oxford LTNs are concluded, and that the information is also passed on to County Council colleagues;

·         Builds a function into the new community Air Quality website to enable members of the public to subscribe to real time air quality alerts;

·         Makes available to all Councillors all educational graphics developed by the Air Quality Team for further sharing with community organisations;

·         Seeks to work with the County Council to ensure that sufficient concurrent data is collected and shared to enable contextualised analysis of the impacts of LTNs, with particular regard to identifying whether a displacement effect is evident; and

·         Works with the Oxfordshire Strategic Partnership to engage major local employers in conversations with the Council about how they can incorporate air-quality positive measures into their strategic plans.



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