Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has slammed the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) consultation on its draft plans to improve air quality as a sham . Defra is claiming that the level of nitrogen dioxide in Brighton & Hove is below the legal limit  but didn’t check its facts. The city has air pollution levels significantly above legal limits .
This news from Brighton highlights that Defra’s assessment of air pollution in the UK is wrong, while the VW scandal undermines the assumptions Defra has been making of how quickly new diesel and other engines will become cleaner. This means that it is likely that air pollution is a bigger problem than is being admitted and that it will take longer to reduce it to safe levels unless greater and faster action is taken by Government.
BHFOE now believes that Defra’s consultation needs to be scrapped and a new strategy developed. It is critical of the approach Defra is advocating which is to push the problem onto local authorities without providing them with the tools or money to fix it. Defra’s approach also lacks any urgency.
Chris Todd, planning and transport campaigner for BHFOE said:
“50,000 people a year are now dying from air pollution in the UK every year , making it one of the biggest threats to human health. Much of that pollution comes from traffic.
“The Supreme Court ruled this year that the Government needed to come up with a new action plan to reduce air pollution ‘as soon as possible’. Defra’s draft plan had already been highly criticised  before the latest scandals emerged but now it is completely discredited. Based as it is on dodgy statistics, the plan should be binned and Defra forced to come up with something that will do the job properly and quickly.
“The Government cannot be allowed to keep kicking this issue into the long grass. People’s lives are being ruined by Government inaction. It has a moral and legal duty to sort this out as soon as possible .”
Notes to editors:
 Defra is currently consulting on its draft action plan until 6 November, 2015. The consultation started on 12 September.
 See table 2, page 9, Draft plans to improve air quality in the UK, Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, UK overview document, September 2015. This shows that Brighton supposedly had annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels of only 41µg/m3 in 2013 (worst case scenario) and that it would meet the standards by 2015.
 Large parts of the city centre are within an Air Quality Management Area and have nitrogen dioxide levels above legal limits. The worst areas are around North St, Western Road and the Clock Tower. Pollution levels at some key areas around the city are:
North St façade: 80µg/m3 (twice the legal limit) – page 33, Brighton & Hove City Council Air Quality Action Plan, February 2015
Valley Gardens facade: 69µg/m3 – page 35
Queens Road facade: 56µg/m3 – page 36
Lewes Road (Elm Grove to Vogue Gyratory) facade: 68µg/m3 – page 37
The problem is that Defra has based its figures on national monitoring data and modelling and has not bothered to check its figures with real life monitoring in Brighton & Hove. The question is how many other areas have been affected by this and with the reductions in monitoring how many other areas are exceeding air pollution limits but have not been registered as such.
 29,000 people were previously estimated to die prematurely every year in the UK due to particulate pollution. Now Defra is estimating that 23,500 additional people are dying prematurely due to nitrogen dioxide pollution (paragraph 8, page 5, Draft plans to improve air quality in the UK, Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities, UK overview document, September 2015). Together, that makes over 50,000 people a year dying prematurely due to air pollution. It is estimated that 115 people a year die prematurely in Brighton & Hove due to particulate pollution alone.
 Clientearth, who originally took the Government to court over its inaction on air pollution, were highly critical of the Government’s approach as outlined in Defra’s draft Action Plan, published on 12 September, 2015.
 The European Court ruled that the National Courts must make sure that the Government produces plans to reach the limits in as short as time as possible.