Sheffield city centre air pollution blackspots revealed by campaigners

Parts of Sheffield city centre are exceeding the legal amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
Parts of Sheffield city centre are exceeding the legal amounts of nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
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Parts of Sheffield city centre are being 'blighted by illegally polluted air', campaigners have said.

Parts of Sheffield city centre are being 'blighted by illegally polluted air', campaigners have said.

Four areas of central Sheffield are breaking the amount of dangerous nitrogen dioxide (NO2) allowed in the atmosphere at one time.

A investigation carried out by Friends of the Earth Sheffield found Arundel Gate, Sheffield train station, Cathedral tram stop and the University Arms pub on Brook Hill all scored higher than the lawful amount set by the European Union.

The legal annual limit for NO2 is 40 micrograms per cubic metre but 'no level is safe'.

Weston Park Museum had the fifth highest level of NO2 but fell under the legal limit at with 33µg/m3. Sheffield train station came out on top with 60µg/m3.

In Sheffield, air pollution is estimated to lead to the premature deaths of 500 people every year, and calculated to cause £160 million in lost working days due to illness.

The results are based on diffusion tubes placed at the locations and the group monitored pollution levels for two weeks providing a snapshot of NO2 pollution for that time.

NO2 is a toxic gas which inflames the lining of the lungs.

The shocking results come as the Government released its final plan to improve air quality in the UK which prompted an angry reacted from bosses at Sheffield Council calling it 'woefully inadequate'.

The Government revealed that sales of all diesel and petrol vehicles will be scrapped by 2040 and that money may be made available to help councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles.

But local authority chiefs said strategy 'does not include any coherent plans' for areas with high pollution, nor 'plans for any scrappage scheme' for some of the worst polluting vehicles.

There is also an 'absence of the infrastructure investment at the scale that is needed to improve dangerous air', the council said.

Commenting on the air pollution results, Shaun Rumbelow, from Sheffield Friends of the Earth, said: "Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, but each year in the UK air pollution causes 40,000 early deaths, and stunts the development of children’s lungs.

“Our survey shows shocking levels of air pollution in the city centre so it’s no surprise that at least 500 people die early every year as a result of pollution.

“We know that diesel emissions are the worst which is why we need bold action to replace diesel vehicles with cleaner ones. Car manufacturers who cheated emission test results should help fund a diesel scrappage scheme so motorists can shift to cleaner vehicles.

“The highest figures recorded were outside the train station, but the government’s recent decision to scrap the electrification of the midland mainline in favour of new diesel trains will do little to improve our air quality.”

Greg Fell, director of public health at Sheffield Council, added: “Air quality is a massive risk to our future health and we need to tackle it together, smartly, effectively and with financial support. It is a great shame that the Government’s approach is to localise the response to an undoubted national problem.

“We take our responsibility seriously in this area and look forward to stronger action from national Government. We are disappointed that the Government seems to have ignored the evidence on what interventions would have greatest impact.”

The council launched Sheffield’s Green Commitment last year and has now published a sustainability vision, which includes improving air quality across the city.

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability said: "The first duty of any Government is to protect its citizens from harm. This Government is obviously failing in that role and unfairly passing the buck on to local councils, whilst cutting the money we need to address pollution problems.

“I’m highly sceptical that the Government’s announcement today even meets their legal duties on air quality, and their response has been woefully inadequate.

“Whilst I welcome any financial support that can help us to make faster improvements, particularly to improve our bus fleet, today’s announcements are especially disappointing given that last week the Government broke its promise on the electrification of Midland Mainline, which would have made a big difference to pollution.

"In Sheffield we have never been afraid to take radical action to improve air quality and public health. We have a very clear vision for a green and sustainable future – as seen through our Air Aware campaign in schools and recent consultation on introducing idling fines. I also want to look into a scheme of Air Quality Community Champions for Sheffield in the near future.

“So whilst I am pleased the Government seem to be waking up to the scale of the problem, today’s announcement is entirely lacking in action, funding and leadership. Sheffield Council will continue to do everything in its power to tackle air pollution despite the disappointments.”