Exeter Greens slam Council’s new Air Quality Plan

Exeter Green Party have labelled the Labour-run City Council’s new Action Plan to improve Exeter’s dirty air an ‘Inaction Plan’. They say the new Plan will not achieve any significant improvements for years to come, with serious public health implications.

Graph: Average (mean) levels of  nitrogen dioxide pollution across all the city’s monitoring stations. 40 mg/m3 is illegal. Public Health England rate 28.5 -40mg as ‘high’ pollution level. 

The City Council have finally published an Air Quality Action Plan for the City [1], nearly two years since the last Plan expired. This plan is a legal obligation, to show how the Council plan to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide within a designated area of the city. [2].

According to Public Health Devon, 12% of all nitrogen dioxide (NO2) readings in Exeter are illegal, with some sites exceeding the legal limit by nearly 50%.  Just under half (47%) of all thereadings show  ‘high’ and illegal pollution levels, enough to cause serious health problems. Public Health Devon have told Exeter Green Party that 39% of Exeter’s population live in areas of medium NO2 pollution [3].

Commenting on the new Air Quality Action Plan, Green Councillor Chris Musgrave, said:

“Despite consultation results showing that 88 per cent of residents agreed air quality should be treated as a public health priority and 66 per cent agreeing that the impact of private cars needs to be reduced, this plan completely lacks any real commitment to action.

“Exeter needs is a Plan with immediate actions to improve air quality in the most seriously affected areas. Urgent work is needed to show that any of these proposed actions will actually make a difference. Most of the proposed actions are a collection of projects that lack evidence or will have no impact on improving air quality across the whole city.” 

Greens also criticise the Council for the ‘blatant misuse of data’ from a three-month consultation on the plan, which received responses from over 3,000 people. A Work Place Parking Levy [4] presented in the draft plan has been ruled out on the basis that it did not receive public backing. However, 41% of respondents agreed with idea with only 34% against. The remaining 25% were undecided.

“Greens have long advocated the Work Place Parking Levy as it is a genuine positive solution with evidence of a successful track record in Nottingham, raising millions for investment in alternatives to car travel. Yet Exeter City Council have abandoned the idea. More people backed it than not with the remainder unsure. The Council should talk to residents and businesses about its merits, not shy away and blatantly misuse data to justify this. 

Meanwhile the Council opts for measures where there is a lack of evidence on whether they make any difference. For example, Park and Ride is put forward as an action, but Devon County Council have already ditched such a scheme in Alphington as it had no evidence that this has any positive impact on congestion or air quality [5].” 

Diana Moore, Green Party candidate in St David’s ward, added:

“The new Action Plan proposes to focus on the Heavitree Road corridor above the rest of the city.  But main roads like Bonhay Rd, Topsham Road, Alphington Road and Western Way all experience very high levels of air pollution, and have done for years. This Plan condemns the thousands of residents, children and workers who travel along, live or work these roads to many more years of exposure and health risks.”


[1] The new Air Quality Action Plan was approved by Exeter City Council’s Executive Committee on November 13th 2018.

[2] https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/aqma/. For map of Exeter’s AQMA, https://exeter.gov.uk/clean-safe-city/environmental-health/pollution-control/air-pollution/

[3] Figures from Exeter City Council’s 2018 Air Quality Status report, https://exeter.gov.uk/media/4101/annual-status-report-2018.pdf and correspondence between Dr Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon and Exeter Green Party

[4] This is a legal arrangement whereby the local authority sets a charge for work place parking spaces on businesses over a certain size. All the money raised – £25 million in three years in Nottingham – is legally obliged to be ring fenced and spent only on transport measures which assist people to travel without a car i.e. walking, cycling and public transport. Nottingham is the only place in the UK to currently have a work place parking levy, but it is being actively pursued in Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol and Glasgow, with other cities expected to follow suit. A Work Place Parking Levy was recommended by Exeter City Council’s People Scrutiny Committee in January 2018 and listed in the Draft Air Quality Action Plan as a possible measure.

Impacts of Nottingham’s WPPL can be found here: https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2016-12/nottingham%20case%20study%20-%20Workplace%20parking%20levy.pdf

[5]Letter from DCC to Exeter Green Party confirming that they have no evidence that the proposed Park and Change site at the Science Park will have any positive impact on air quality.  Devon County Council also conceded that the proposed park and ride at Alphington (the planning proposal was withdrawn 3 years ago) would not improve congestion or air quality

For a full response by Exeter Green Party to the Air Quality Action Plan including a full set of proposals to tackle air pollution see: https://exeter.greenparty.org.uk/resources/EGP/PDFs/AQAP%20response%20ExeterGreenParty.pdf

[6] An air quality briefing note is attached.


Cllr Chris Musgrave: 07872301974 Diana Moore 07903932214


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