Oxford air pollution estimates 'excessively optimistic'

Oxford High Street Image copyright David Hallam-Jones
Image caption Air quality in Oxford currently breaches European Union limits for nitrogen dioxide

Government estimates for air pollution in Oxford have been deemed "excessively optimistic" by the city council.

Oxford's atmosphere breaks European limits for nitrogen dioxide but a government action plan suggests the city will hit targets by 2020.

Oxford City Council said it was "surprised" by the estimate and "concerned" at the modelling used.

The government said it was committed to improving air quality and cutting harmful emissions.

According to a 2016 report from the Royal College of Physicians, air pollution across the UK is linked to around 40,000 premature deaths annually.

Last year Oxford was listed by the World Health Organisation as one of 10 urban areas in the UK breaching air pollution safety levels.

But the government's Draft Air Quality Action Plan predicted Oxford will meet the European Union's target by 2020, without any further action.

Estimates 'incorrect'

Oxford City Council said the government's modelling was "excessively optimistic" and did not use the council's own data.

Councillor John Tanner said: "These draft proposals find that, without taking any further action, the city will have no problem by 2020. We think this is incorrect."

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said it had set out its plans to improve air quality through its new programme of Clean Air Zones.

"We are firmly committed to improving the UK's air quality and cutting harmful emissions," the spokesperson added.

The Draft Air Quality Action Plan was described as "weak" by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan when it was released in May, and criticised by the Liberal Democrats and The Green Party.

Consultation on the government's plan closes at 23:45 BST, and DEFRA said it would publish its final air quality plan by 31 July.

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