A senior city councillor has said her constituents “want cleaner air but they don’t want more LTNs” after an air pollution report showed the legal annual limit was breached for one major city route.

Oxford City Council released a report on Thursday, June 15, which showed unsafe levels of nitrogen dioxide in six city locations.

Nitrogen dioxide is directly associated with conditions such as asthma and chronic lung disease.

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Oxford Mail: LTN bollard in Oxford LTN bollard in Oxford (Image: Newsquest)

Overall, the official data for 2022 revealed that nitrogen dioxide levels across the city had dropped by 8.3 per cent on average and a 22 per cent reduction in air pollution took place when compared with pre-pandemic levels.

However, St Clements and The Plain saw a 10 per cent increase in 2022, resulting in the area breaching the UK’s annual legal limit.

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The council has highlighted that St Clement’s is the only location that is within an area of high public exposure.

Oxford Mail: Cabinet member Linda SmithCabinet member Linda Smith (Image: Oxford Mail)

City cabinet member for housing, Linda Smith said: “The LTNs have created winners and losers, as residents on the closed roads benefit from cleaner air, while residents on boundary roads, bus passengers and everyone else trying to get around the city has to deal with traffic being concentrated onto fewer routes.”

Ms Smith welcomed the overall decrease of 8.3 per cent but insisted that her constituents in Lye Valley “want cleaner air but they do not want more LTNs.”

Ms Smith said levels of air pollution on Hollow Way have remained “fairly static” and she said the latest figures showed a “failure to meet the city council’s target for air quality”.

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The report found that on Hollow Way there was “no significant change” in levels of nitrogen dioxide but they were lower than the levels recorded in 2019.

Furthermore, Ms Smith suggested that people’s day to day priorities were currently not being addressed.

She said: "My constituents want better bus services, the re-opening of the Cowley Branch Line to passenger trains and for cycling to be made safer by new segregated bike lanes and potholes getting fixed."

Average nitrogen dioxide levels for the year were exceeded at five other locations within the city according to the new data.

These were the Northern Bypass/Horspath Industrial Estate, Brasenose Farm/ Eastern Bypass, Headington Hill/Headington Road, the Southern Bypass Road and Wolvercote Meadows.

The monitoring site on Cowley Road, where it crosses with James Street, recorded an increase of 35 per cent in nitrogen dioxide levels.

The report explicitly stated this increase was “most likely the result of this being the only road that moves across the three LTNs” so vehicles have been diverting from the surrounding LTNs.

All the areas monitored within the East Oxford LTNs showed a decrease in NO2, with Divinity Road and Prince Street seeing a 33 and 24 per cent reduction in pollution levels respectively.

Within the St Marys neighbourhood LTN, both Howard Street and Hurst Street saw a 19 per cent reduction in NO2 levels.

Roads within the Zero Emission Zone pilot area also saw decreases in nitrogen dioxide levels, with a 14 and 18 per cent reduction taking place on Cornmarket Street and St Michael's Street.

City councillor and cabinet member for zero carbon Oxford, Anna Railton, said: “Our latest data has found that during 2022, air pollution levels reduced overall across the city, not only compared to 2021 data, but also compared to pre-pandemic levels- and despite an increase in traffic levels.

“However, there is ultimately no safe level of air pollution, and we must continue to take action to improve”

The full report ‘Air Quality Annual Status Report 2022’ can be found on Oxford City Council’s website.

Councillor Duncan Enright, Cabinet Member for Travel & Development Strategy, said: “Our vision for central Oxfordshire and the whole county is to have an innovative, inclusive and carbon neutral transport system, helping people move quickly and safely around the area.

“Just this week we were able to announce that the vital bus service 700, linking Kidlington and Summertown with Oxford’s hospitals and park and ride sites, will continue, thanks to council support to Oxford Bus Company.

“Low traffic neighbourhoods in Oxford are intended to make residential streets safer and more comfortable for walking, wheeling and cycling. They are part of the central Oxfordshire travel plan, which includes other measures intended to work together to reduce congestion and improve air quality.

“The traffic filters trial, bringing improvements to bus services and walking and cycling, will be trialled after Network Rail completes work to improve the railway station. We are working on proposals to expand the zero emission zone, the pilot of which has already contributed to cleaner air in the city.

“Along with Oxford City Council, we are involved in progressing the business case for re-opening the Cowley Branch Line. And we are improving the safety of our roads throughout Oxfordshire as a part of our ambition to have zero road fatalities or life-changing injuries by 2050.”