'Older cars damaging attempt to reduce air pollution level in city'
RECESSION and older cars on the roads are helping to prevent air pollution levels in Nottingham from falling enough to meet legal standards, it is claimed.
Although the EU has given the city until January 2015 to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels to legal limits, officials fear that the targets may not be reached in time. The city could be fined if that is the case.
Canning Circus, Upper Parliament Street, Shakespeare Street and Queen's Road have been highlighted as the city's most polluted roads.
Richard Taylor, noise and pollution control team leader at Nottingham City Council, said air pollution levels across the country were not falling as fast as expected because the Government had overestimated the take-up of cleaner vehicles such as electric cars.
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Recession was also having an impact because it meant fewer motorists could afford to buy newer vehicles with less polluting engines.
"A lot of people are not able to change their vehicles as regularly as they were doing in the past," said Mr Taylor. "People are not buying electric vehicles as expected and more people are driving vehicles with diesel engines, which emit more NO2 than petrol engines."
It is expected another problem will be the widening of the A453, because it should bring more traffic into the city via the ring road – which goes past the A6005 Beeston Road in Dunkirk, an area that is in one of the city's two Air Quality Management Areas due to its high NO2 levels.
Additional traffic fumes in an area suffering high pollution could make it difficult for officials to work out whether the new NET tram line will improve air quality, as the council claims it will do.
"People will be driving their diesel vehicles from the A453 on to the A52 ring road, which goes through Dunkirk and up to the A60," said Mr Taylor. "Any increase in traffic may confuse monitoring results."
Nigel Lee, of Nottingham Friends of the Earth, said: "Traffic in Nottingham seems to be getting worse, not better. The pollution comes from buses and lorries as well as cars, though a lot of the problem is made worse by congestion. We need more people cycling to work. That is where investment needs to go, not into roads like the A453, designed to bring more traffic into the city, causing more congestion and more pollution."
NO2 is a major traffic fume pollutant that causes respiration problems and can worsen bronchitis in children who suffer from asthma. A study published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology earlier this year suggested more people in the UK died as a result of traffic fumes than were killed in road accidents.
In 2010 Nottingham was one of eight urban areas in England to be granted a time extension to bring NO2 levels under control. It gives the city until January 2015 to bring NO2 down to the EU's maximum permitted level of 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre (m3) of air.
The latest figures show that 13 monitored sites exceeded that level last year. The most polluted areas were Canning Terrace and Upper Parliament Street, which both had mean annual readings of 51 mg/m3. The next highest levels, of 47 mg/m3, were Shakespeare Street and Queen's Road.
Nottingham's latest NO2 figures, for 2012, will be published in February 2013 but are not expected to show any significant changes. The fine levied against the city if it still breaches pollution limits by 2015 is unknown. Nottingham is not alone in facing air pollution and it would be the UK as a whole which would be hit by a penalty from the EU.
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the Government would decide how much cities breaching limits should pay towards the fine.
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