Worrying air quality assessments have led to new measures to combat pollution across the whole of Oxford.

The number of pollution ‘hot-spots’ across the city has led to plans for “a city-wide solution”, as it emerged that nitrogen dioxide levels in the St Clement’s area, of East Oxford, are a third higher than those in the city centre.

Until now, the city centre has been the focus of local air improvement initiatives, which have included major schemes to pedestrianise much of the centre and reduce bus numbers.

But the failure to bring down pollution levels in the city fast enough to meet mandatory European targets has led Oxford City Council to declare the whole of Oxford an ‘air quality management area’.

Councils are obliged to give the status to areas needing special anti-pollution measures when it is apparent that clean air objectives “are not likely to be achieved”.

This will result in tough new pollution level targets being set, which Oxfordshire County Council will be largely responsible for meeting.

John Tanner, the city council executive member for a cleaner greener Oxford, said rolling out ‘low emission zones’ across the city centre was no longer viewed as sufficient, with too many pollution hot-spots to be treated individually.

He said: “We are saying to the county council, ‘there is a real problem of pollution here — please do something about it’. And we fully expect County Hall to respond.

“The problem areas are some of the main junctions, such as The Plain, Summertown, Headington, and the Iffley Road-Donnington Bridge, Weirs Lane-Abingdon Road junctions.

“We are going for a city-wide approach. There is no point in simply moving pollution problems on to other parts of the city.”

The county council will now be obliged to develop and implement action plans to tackle air pollution in areas with problematic pollution levels.

Last night, a report to the city council’s east area committee noted the high level of pollution in East Oxford, particularly in St Clement’s.

Nuala Young, a Green city councillor, blamed levels of traffic on the Cowley Road and buses travelling to London and the airports for the problem.

She said there was now a “strong case” for looking at the idea of creating a shuttle bus service carrying passengers from east Oxford to London bus services operating from park-and-rides on the eastern edge of the city.

She said: “You have to remember that this is a residential area, but the figures show it is far more polluted than even the city centre. The particular concern is nitrogen dioxide, which is carcinogenic.”

Nitrogen dioxide levels are actually coming down in many parts of the city centre already, with the introduction of Euro-5 standard buses in the city expected to bring about further falls.

Under the county council’s Transform Oxford strategy, significant reductions in bus numbers are promised in the city centre.

In January, the Oxford Bus Company and Stagecoach signed a deal with the county council to introduce joint ticketing and joint timetabling to improve the co-ordination of services and cut the number of buses travelling in central Oxford by a quarter.

Stagecoach this week said that as part of its commitment to introduce joint ticketing, it pany had spent £300,000 replacing ticket machines on its fleet. The new machines will allow the firm to bring in a smartcard ticketing system, bringing it in line with Oxford Bus Company.