Portsmouth has dangerously high pollution levels. It’s been reported that our air quality is worse than parts of London, especially around nurseries and schools, which is incredibly worrying for the health of future generations in our city. Our roads are often congested, with many of us reliant on our vehicles to get around, even for the shortest of journeys.
To avert climate catastrophe, more must be done at the local level to tackle the biggest polluters, and put the breaks on unsustainable living that is bad for the health of people and the planet. The good news is, councils have a lot of power to make an impact. The bad news is, the current Liberal Democrat administration isn’t going far enough, or fast enough.
Last year, Liberal Democrat councillors watered down proposals for the introduction of a Clean Air Zone in our city. And recently, they – along with the Conservatives – voted down Labour’s £1.5million budget amendment to introduce living streets, low traffic neighbourhoods and better cycling provision across our city. Meanwhile, Labour councils elsewhere, such as nearby Southampton, are introducing Green Transport Recovery Plans – a £4.3m initiative to encourage safe and active travel throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
The global pandemic has presented us with the chance to reimagine our city. One that isn’t centred around rushing from place-to-place in our vehicles. Instead using more active travel, public transport and protecting our green spaces at all costs. Councils have the opportunity to seize this turning point, this crucial moment – but the Liberal Democrats haven’t.
Living streets are one of the best ways to tackle Portsmouth’s pollution problem, and build on the strong sense of community that has flourished in response to the pandemic. Living streets aim to make forms of active travel the norm, reducing congested roads and pollution. From cycle lanes, low traffic neighbourhoods, cycle storage, street furniture, parklets, trees and so much more.
Charlotte Gerada, Central Southsea Campaigner said: “I am an avid cyclist, walker and environmental campaigner. When I lived in London, I cycled from Crystal Palace to Old Street and back for work – a 16 mile round trip! One of the things I miss about London is its excellent cycling and active travel provision – something I will always fight for improving in Portsmouth. That’s why I recently co-founded Pompey Living Streets – after all, if active travel provision is good enough for London, then it’s good enough for Portsmouth too!”
George Fielding, Labour Councillor for Central Southsea and Labour’s Environmental Spokesperson said: “As Labour’s Environmental Spokesperson, I always try my hardest to push the Liberal Democrat administration to do more to protect our environment and make our city a safer, healthier place for all. While there’s been some success with things like the pilot food waste recycling scheme, not enough bold action is being taken to make the biggest difference possible for the sake of our environment. Please keep contacting the council to ask them to do more – we know it’s possible from other Labour councils across the country.”