Leeds street named worst NO2 pollution hotspot out of London as over 200 Yorkshire sites are listed

Neville Street in Leeds.
Neville Street in Leeds.

An “unforgivable” scale of pollution across Yorkshire has been revealed by a major environmental organisation – showing that the region is home to UK’s worst spot for breaching nitrogen dioxide levels outside London.

Friends of the Earth (FotE) today released a data audit showing that 227 sites across the Yorkshire that have breached the annual air quality objective for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.

Campaigners called on the government to “step up” and tackle the issue instead of leaving “under-resourced” councils to make the tough choices. The north-west entrance of the tunnel in Neville Street near Leeds Station tops FotE’s named Yorkshire spots.

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It was found to have an NO2 level of 99 micrograms per cubic meter of air – nearly two-and-a-half times over the UK and European objective of 40 – making it the most polluted British location outside the capital. Other areas of the city, as well as sites in Doncaster, Sheffield, Barnsley, Bradford and Calderdale were named in the top ten regional spots.

Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and North East campaigner at FotE, said: “It’s unforgivable to see many locations across the region over air quality limits, leaving thousands of us breathing dangerously polluted air.”

“Air pollution is often an issue thought of as affecting only the biggest cities. The reality is that unacceptably toxic air can be found across much of the UK, even in smaller towns. It is harming the health of people across the country and is especially bad for young children whose lungs are still developing.

“The government needs to step up and do more to deal with this air pollution crisis – they can’t just carry on leaving the difficult decisions with local authorities, many of which are severely under-resourced.”

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Fir Tree Close and John O’Gaunts, two very close sites off the A635 in Hickleton, Doncaster, are named as second and third.

In November last year, Doncaster Mayor Ros Jones cast doubt on a long-awaited bypass around Hickleton, which was first motted in the mid-1990s, citing a “low cost-benefit ratio”.

Sheffield Station’s 3A/2B platform comes fourth, while the north-east entrance of the Neville Street tunnel in Leeds also registers at fifth on the list, followed in ninth by Bishopgate Street, which it connects to outside the Scarbrough Hotel pub.

Platform 6A and Arundel Gate Interchange in Sheffield are sixth and seventh, while Harborough Hill Road in Barnsley in eighth.

Queens Road in Bradford and New Bank North, Calderdale, are joint tenth.

FotE is campaigning for Clean Air Zones to be rolled out in far more places than are currently being planned, supported by improved infrastructure to support safe cycling and walking.

Leeds City Council has proposed a Clean Air Charging Zone covering more than half of the city to be introduced from January 6, 2020, monitored using a purpose-built cameras.

Coun James Lewis, Executive Member for resources and sustainability, said: “We recognise that, like many thriving cities, air pollution exceeds legal limits in some parts of Leeds. Because of this commitment, we have deliberately taken the approach of monitoring air quality at the city’s worst polluted sites—even in some places (such as busy junctions and tunnels) that we are not recommended to monitor by either EU or UK guidelines.

“We are taking a range of action to tackle pollution and, as a council, are proud to be leading the way on this issue. For example, our fleet already operates more zero-emission electric vehicles than any other local authority in the country and we will be introducing the biggest charging Clean Air Zone outside of London from January 2020.”

He added: “Everyone that lives or works in Leeds shares a responsibility for cleaning the air we share and there are lots of ways to help. Individuals can do their bit by using the car less often, sharing their journeys more often, and by turning off their engines when idling.”

Cabinet Member for Environment at Doncaster Council, Coun Chris McGuinness, said that monitoring in and around Hickleton shows much of the village complies with the air quality objectives.

The government was approached for comment but did not respond by deadline.