ELECTRIC car-only streets have been suggested as a potential solution to Oxford’s pollution problem.

The city’s environment tsar has said new measures to tackle pollution will not be enough to deal with the city’s problem.

Earlier this year it emerged that some parts of Oxford have consistently failed to meet the target for reducing nitrogen dioxide, which is caused by diesel vehicles.

Last month researchers from King’s College, London carried out air pollution tests in Oxpens Road and High Street.

From January 2014 regulations allowing only buses and coaches that meet strict European standards to operate in central Oxford will come into force.

But city councillor John Tanner, the executive board member for Cleaner, Greener Oxford, said more work would be needed.

He said: “Pollution levels are too high and I think we are going to need to take further steps, the city council and county council together, to make sure everyone has got clean air to breathe.

“My guess is that however successful the bus restriction is, it will not be enough.

“We might, for instance, say that only electric cars could use certain roads but I don’t know what further measures we could take until we have seen all the research.”

Mr Tanner said talks are taking place between the city and county councils to assess what can be done.

When asked what streets could be subject to such a restriction he said he didn’t know, but added: “St Aldate’s is clearly a problem, as is the High Street and there might be other areas around the city as well. St Aldate’s is the worst offender for air pollution in the city centre.”

The city council, which is responsible for monitoring pollution, says measurements in the city centre have failed, since 2005, to go below the target of 40ug/m3 – or micrograms per cubic metre of air.

But Oxford has met targets for other pollutants such as carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.

Green city councillor Craig Simmons agreed more had to be done.

He said: “The first thing from our point of view is not to make the problem worse and the Westgate development will do that.

“Rather than having huge trucks coming into the city centre, you could have a drop off point and smaller, more energy efficient vehicles could bring it in.”

Nitrogen dioxide can cause airway inflammation even in otherwise healthy people, with long-term exposure leading to reduced lung function.

County councillor David Nimmo Smith, the cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “We are keen to do something to tackle the problem of air pollution but it comes down at the end of the day to what is achievable.”

Sushila Dhall, chairman of Oxford Pedestrians’ Association, said: “The association would not want to see more buses re-routed onto St Aldate’s, because St Aldate’s has a big problem at the moment with air pollution.”

oxford’s air pollution

The annual mean target for nitrogen dioxide is 40ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre of air).

Measurements in Oxford city centre have been:
2011: 61
2010: 58
2009: 50
2008: 51
2007: 57
2006: 67
2005: 67