TWENTY TWO places across Oxfordshire are 'unforgivably' breaching air pollution limits, as campaigners accused the county council of 'unacceptable' behaviour in not acting quickly enough.

A nationwide survey by Friends of the Earth has revealed the sites which breach the annual Air Quality Objective for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), with the highest, in Banbury, more than double the limit.

Areas in most of the county's major towns and Oxford feature in the 'shocking' findings, which show that Banbury's Hennef Way and Yarnells Road, in Botley, are categorised in the most dangerous 'red' zones.


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A full list and a map is available below, with the data compiled by Friends of the Earth nationally. The limit is 40ug/m3. 

Chris Church, from Oxford Friends of the Earth, said: “It’s unforgivable to see so many locations across our county over air quality limits, leaving thousands of us breathing dangerously polluted air. These figures show how air pollution is not just an issue affecting cities.

Oxford Mail: The map showing air pollution levels. Picture: Friends of the EarthThe map showing air pollution levels. Picture: Friends of the Earth

"Unacceptably toxic air can be found now in smaller towns. It is harming the health of people across the country and is especially bad for young children whose lungs are still developing.

"The government and our local councils need to step up and do more to deal with this air pollution crisis. We need clear and committed action."

Oxford is planning a Zero Emission Zone but environmentalists say urgent action across the county is required now. 

However, there is some good news, with pollution levels reducing in a number of areas.


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Air pollution is known to reduce life expectancy and pose various health risks. Recent studies have linked it to heart disease, dementia, lung problems, breathing difficulties and miscarriages, while the death of one girl in London has been linked to air quality.

Children are believed to most endangered, with academics even suggesting exposure to pollution can affect intelligence levels.

Perhaps surprisingly, the top nine of the 22 sites are outside Oxford, with three in North Hinksey. One is very near North Hinksey primary school. 

Oxford Mail: School children campaigning yesterday at Yarnells RoadSchool children campaigning yesterday at Yarnells Road

Other problem areas include Watlington, Witney, Tetsworth (by the M40), Chipping Norton and Henley.

Mr Church continued: "We are concerned that in November 2017 Oxfordshire County Council voted to take ‘immediate action’ and to set up an Air Pollution Action Group (APAG) to be led by county and district councillors with officer input. 15 months on, that Group has not yet met even once. This is simply unacceptable.”

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Council spokesperson Chris Dyson said: "Oxfordshire County Council is committed to working in partnership with district councils to improve air quality. County council members passed a motion in 2017 to set up an Air Pollution Action Group. Since then, we have been working closely with the districts on many joint initiatives to reduce pollution levels.

"These include plans for a Zero Emission Zone in central Oxford, Bicester and Barton Healthy New Towns, and helping everyone across the county switch to healthier and more environmentally friendly modes of transport such as walking and cycling, or moving towards electric vehicles.

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"We’re confident that by working together on individual projects, and by listening to residents, we will be successful in improving the county’s air quality."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said: “All of us in Oxfordshire know there is a huge problem with air pollution, and these revelations prove that – on a shocking scale.

"My Liberal Democrat colleagues on the Vale council recently passed a motion declaring a climate emergency. It’s time for the County to follow. They should prioritise cycling and public transport above needless highways like the Expressway that will only worsen the long term affects of air pollution, and lead to more not fewer vehicles in already polluted areas."

Oxford City Council has also recently declared a climate emergency.

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Ms Moran labelled the Conservatives record on climate action nationally as 'shameful' and added: “We demand better than increased carbon emissions and ever-worsening public health.”

A map of problem areas is available here. 'Yellow' zones are between 40 and 50ug/m3; 'orange' are between 50 and 60ug and 'red' are above 60ug/m3.

The data was collected using data from local councils.

The Oxfordshire figures:

1.      Hennef Way, Banbury, Cherwell – 84.8
2.      Yarnells Road, Botley, Vale of White Horse – 60.9
3.      Couching Street, Watlington, South Oxon – 58.43
4.      Shirburn Street, Watlington, South Oxon – 53.44
5.      Adwell Cottages, Tetsworth, South Oxon – 52.07
6.      Stanley Close, Botley, Vale of White Horse – 50.8
7.      Bridge Street, Witney, West Oxfordshire – 49.9
8.      Southern Bypass, Botley, VoWH – 49.7
9.      Horsefair, Chipping Norton, West Oxfordshire – 48.1
10.  St Clements, Oxford – 47
11.  Duke Street, Henley-on-Thames, South Oxon – 45.22
12.  Packhorse Ln, Abingdon, Vale of White Horse – 42.7
13.  High Street, Oxford – 42
14.  Horsefair, Banbury, Cherwell – 41.8
15.  Kings End South, Bicester, Cherwell – 41.7
16.  Woodstock Road, Oxford - 41
17.  Summers Place Cutteslowe Roundabout, Oxford – 41
18.  Bicester Road, Kidlington, Cherwell – 41
19.  Lower Road, Chinnor, South Oxon – 41
20.  High St, Wallingford, South Oxfordshire - 40.03
21.  St. Aldate’s, Oxford – 40
22.  George Street, Oxford – 40