OXFORD could tap into a £1m Government cash pot to help tackle air quality issues in the city centre, a councillor has said.
John Tanner, city council executive board member for Cleaner Greener Oxford, said there were still concerns about particulates and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in St Aldate’s and St Clement’s.
Now the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has said councils could bid for extra cash to pay for cycle schemes and road alterations to help tackle the problem.
Mr Tanner said: “Air quality is mostly very good in Oxford and is improving all the time, but there are hotspots in certain areas such as St Aldate’s and St Clement’s.
“We are still waiting to see the full impact of the Low Emission Zone and we have also introduced age restrictions on taxi vehicles, which should also help.
“But I we will also be seeing if we can get our hands on some of this Government money.”
Air quality in Oxford does not pose a serious risk to adults, the city council has said, but it remains one of 15 areas in the UK to miss air quality targets set by the European Union.
In 2010 the city was declared an Air Quality Management Area, because officials were not confident it would achieve the aim of 40 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air (ug/m3).
Certain roads – including St Aldate’s and High Street – are currently set to fail the standard again in 2015.
But the Government’s Air Quality Grant Programme was announced this week as a way of supporting projects set up to tackle air pollution.
That could include cycling schemes and changes to road layouts, a Defra spokesman said.
Last year Cambridge was awarded £23,500 for such schemes.
Environment Minister Dan Rogerson said: “Air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and local authorities play a vital role – this funding will allow them to continue their good work.
“Last year’s grant prompted a fantastic response and I look forward to seeing a similar variety of projects which will improve air quality for all of us.”
On January 1 the council formally introduced the LEZ, which forced bus providers to comply with the Euro V emission standard for NO2.
The council has also commisioned a joint-study with Oxfordshire County Council, Mr Tanner added, into measures to keep freight vehicles out of the city centre.
Councillors are also understood to be investigating how to reduce bus traffic in St Aldate’s and have expressed hopes that Queen Street could be fully-pedestrianised after the redevelopment of the Westgate Shopping Centre.