'EXTREME weather conditions' have got the blame for the first increase in air pollution levels in Oxford since 2011.

Oxford City Council has recently released data from air quality monitoring stations around the city, which have shown that harmful particles released into the air by cars increased in 2019, which it described as 'the first significant increase in air pollution levels since 2011'.

The council said the increase 'masked' a longer term trend that showed air pollution was actually plateauing.

A statement from the council, released as it submitted its air quality annual status report to the Government, said that abnormally cold weather and still in February, April and November had meant that air pollution had not been dispersed as it usually was.

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However, the city council's Green group blamed the ruling Labour administration of 'blaming the weather' and demanded more action on air quality.

Green councillor Dick Wolff said: "Reminiscent of the rail companies blaming 'leaves on the line' for their poor performance, the city council have resorted to blaming the weather for Oxford's poor air quality in new figures released today that relate to 2019."

Local branch of environmental group Friends of the Earth acknowledged the council's argument that there had been no large increase in traffic between 2018 and 2019 which could have otherwise explained the reason for the increase in air pollution.

But in a response, the group added: "Extreme weather or not – it is clear that more needs to be done in the city and other areas across the county, including residential areas along the A34."

Oxford Mail:

Tom Hayes, the city councillor responsible for environmental issues. Picture: Ed Nix

The council has said it is continuing its plans which will reduce traffic on the city's roads and promote electric vehicles.

These are the bus gates: which fine anyone driving a private care if they drive through certain city centre streets at peak times; and the Zero Emission Zone: which will lead to fines for most drivers in the city if their cars use petrol or diesel fuel.

Oxfordshire County Council has also recently submitted a bid to make all the buses in Oxford electric.

Last month, a report released by the council demonstrated that roads like St Clements, the city's most-polluted, would see their air quality drastically improved by these changes.

Tom Hayes, the city council's deputy leader and cabinet member for green transport and zero carbon Oxford, said: “Unlike the smog from industrial chimneys and cigarette smoke, you can't see the air pollution caused by fossil fuel vehicles.

"However, we can see the evidence of its impact in the ill health of residents exposed to polluted air."

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He added: "We’ve made progress in our efforts to achieve better air quality and a high quality of life, but we need to bring in cleaner buses, reduce the numbers of fossil fuel vehicles on our roads, and create segregated cycle routes.

"That way we can truly achieve the cleanest possible air for Oxford.”

Poor air quality is reported to kill 7m people a year worldwide.