Air pollution figures spark renewed calls for Brighton road revamp

North Street, Brighton
North Street, Brighton

Improvements must be made to the Clock Tower junction to improve air quality in the city centre, Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth (FoE) has said.

This comes as the most air polluted sites in the UK were revealed, and – excluding London – North Street in Brighton was named seventh.

North Street, Brighton

North Street, Brighton

Friends of the Earth said a leading cause of nitrogen dioxide pollution is emissions from traffic, and North Street’s levels were almost double the acceptable annual average.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it is trying to tackle the issue by working with its partners, including bus companies, to improve air quality in the city.

But Chris Todd from the Brighton branch of FoE said the council had ‘really dragged its heels over sorting out the Clock Tower junction’.

He called for a remodelling of the area which would restrict through traffic on the upper end of West Street and the lower part of Queens Road. He said this would improve bus flows and give pedestrians better crossings.

North Street, Brighton

North Street, Brighton

Mr Todd said: “It’s something we’ve been highlighting for a number of years. It’s great we have the Big Lemon and Brighton and Hove Buses investing in low emission buses. But the council has really dragged its heels over sorting out the Clock Tower junction.”

He said private vehicles cause congestion and ‘it means that buses are then held up on the hill’.

Making the upper part of West Street a no-through traffic zone would improve pedestrian connections between Churchill Square and the old town, Mr Todd said. And he said if North Street flowed into Western Road it would benefit the bus network.

Mr Todd said: “It would make it a much more pleasant welcome to the city for people travelling by train coming down to the seafront.

“We would like to see that whole area around the Clock Tower remodelled.”

Toxic air

This week, Friends of the Earth (FoE) revealed the annual nitrogen dioxide level in North Street, Brighton, is more than double acceptable levels.

It was named the seventh worst street in the country for air pollution outside of London, alongside areas in Leeds and Doncaster.

The environment group said high nitrogen dioxide levels can cause a flare up of asthma or difficultly breathing.

Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We have already taken steps to tackle air pollution, including investing in low emission public transport, developing electric vehicle infrastructure and improving pedestrian and cycle links. The Clock Tower has the highest pedestrian movements in the city and we are looking in more detail at this busy junction as part of the improvements to Queens Road and West Street, known as the Gateway to the Sea project.”


Martin Harris, managing director of Brighton and Hove Buses said: “Buses are part of the solution, not the problem.”

He explained how North Street and Western Road, are covered by a low emission zone, which means buses operating in the zone must be at a certain emissions standard by 2020, and bus drivers must switch off their engines when stationary for more than a minute.

But he said the road, which is one of the busiest in the UK for buses, is also heavily used by private cars, delivery vans, motorbikes and lorries.

Brighton and Hove Buses said its work to create a low emission zone with the council in 2015 has already made a difference and shown an improvement in air quality over the long term.

But North Street remains one of the UK’s air pollution hotspots according to recent local authority figures.

Mr Harris said: “As a bus company, we have a moral obligation to constantly cut emissions, reduce our fuel and energy use and encourage people out of their cars and onto sustainable public transport.

“We won’t stop exploring and investing in new, cleaner and more efficient ways to run our business.”

He said the company is investing in almost emissions-free vehicles every year.

Mr Harris added: “Euro VI diesel technology in buses is far more advanced than it is in other vehicles, particularly cars. An equivalent Euro VI diesel car emits 10 times more per passenger.

“What’s more, buses have been real-world tested for year and a full double decker bus can take up to 75 cars off the road.

“Buses are part of the solution, not the problem.”

He said the bus company was working with the council on road design changes to improve the flow of buses at the Clock Tower. 

“Better flows for buses are critical to air quality as emissions peak when vehicles pull away and accelerate short distances while stuck in traffic,” he said. “We’re also exploring the option of reducing the number of buses stopping in North Street.”