Air pollution in Winchester has fallen below pre-pandemic levels, according to the council.
Although the number of cars coming into the city is back to pre-pandemic levels the morning and evening rush hours are now less intense, reducing pollution.
Cllr Martin Tod, Cabinet member for economic recovery, told full Council: “Car parking and traffic levels have returned strongly with car parking revenue at pre-pandemic levels – but are still different in nature to patterns pre-2020, according to a report by the Hampshire Chronicle.
“The county council has not had all its staff return to work and parking associated with railway commuting is not at pre-pandemic levels at car parks near the railway station, for example,” added Cllr Tod.
Answering a question from fellow Lib Dem Cllr Charles Radcliffe, Cllr Tod added: “Our published air quality data at ukairquality.net for St George’s Street suggests NOx levels remain below 2019 – but we do not yet have the most recent trends from our extensive network of diffusion tubes available to give a wider geographical view.”
He said the Winchester Movement Strategy remains the focus to improve cycling, walking and public transport and the primary route to improve air quality problems caused by congestion and traffic.
This includes working with the county council on a bus improvement plan, enhancement of cycling and walking facilities and better freight management and enhanced park and ride.
Consultation takes place during the autumn on a programme of priorities for investment, that build on the proposals set out in this report.
The plans include:
- New park and ride provision on the Andover Road corridor and extension of South Winchester park and ride;
- High quality pedestrian and cycle routes including on Stockbridge Road, Worthy Road and between the railway station, city centre and new Leisure Centre at Bar End;
- Working with the Business Improvement District (BID) and the logistics sector to pilot initiatives to manage deliveries to reduce congestion and delays in the city centre;
- Enabling two-way traffic on Friarsgate and Union Street to reduce unnecessary traffic circulation and enable public realm enhancements on Jewry Street and The Broadway;
- Working with bus operators to persuade bus and Park and Ride users to return to using these services and, as demand recovers, to increase park and ride bus frequency and improve the quality and reliability of bus routes to exceed what was provided before the pandemic.
- Looking to further improve facilities in The Square by extending pedestrianisation into weekday evenings.
Cllr Tod added: “One unknown factor which we need to address is the impact of the county council’s proposal to serve notice on all districts’ traffic management and civil parking enforcement agency agreements. The current plans only refer to income and make no reference to tackling pollution, congestion or air quality – or to active travel, walking and cycling – or to supporting agreed plans (including those where the County are co-signatories) such as the City of Winchester Movement Strategy and the Air Quality Action Plan. We are actively working to clarify this.”