IT may not look like much, but it is on the frontline of the battle to protect Southampton’s communities against dangerous pollution clouding the city.

Now an air-monitoring station based close to two of the city’s most congested roads will be axed by city chiefs to cut costs.

The station, due to close at the end of next month, is based in Millbrook Road, close to Redbridge Community School and Redbridge Road, and measures potentially toxic fumes from traffic and industries.

It comes as the city is lagging behind strict European emission controls – six years after they were put in place – as reported by the Daily Echo.

The city is one of 16 areas in the country where the Government has not put forward a plan to reduce emissions, according to the European Commission.

The commission has launched legal action against the UK due to a failure to cut levels of nitrogen dioxide, which could lead to a £300m fine.

Southampton City Council’s leaders insist that the air monitoring station will be replaced by a network of diffusion tubes used intermittently to monitor nitrogen dioxide levels, which it considers are the most dangerous to health.

But environmental campaigners, backed by the Tory opposition, claim that the station is vital because it provides continuous, rather than intermittent and average readings, and also measures levels of the cancer-causing airbourne substance particulate matter.

Now a petition has been launched to upgrade a similar monitoring station at the junction of Millbrook Road and Waterhouse Lane installed by Marchwood Power as a planning requirement by the Environment Agency.

Millbrook ward Tory candidate Steve Galton is leading the campaign.

He claims that it would cost £5,000 to upgrade the Waterhouse Lane station’s air monitoring cabin and £3,000 in maintenance – the equivalent of 10p per year per person.

He says that continuous readings are needed to measure exact levels for protest against the Helius-proposed biomass power station.

He said: “We need a full range of tools to monitor pollution, which often reaches peaks at busy rush hour periods. We need continuous air-monitoring of every hour of every day to see what’s out there.

"Having an accurate and irrefutable set of figures for exactly how poor local air quality is can only help residents.”

A council spokesman said: “The continuous monitoring stations have helped demonstrate that nitrogen dioxide is the only pollutant exceeding threshold levels within the city and the concern is the annual average, rather than short duration peaks.

“A diffusion tube network provides the most effective means of measuring this.

“In recent years the levels of air pollution have tended to decline and the data is suggesting that efforts made to improve air quality through the city’s Air Quality Action Plan could achieve levels below the threshold by 2016.”

Southampton City Council currently operates 60 diffusion tubes across the city and has monitoring stations at Onslow Road, Victoria Road and in Brintons Road, which is operated on behalf of the Department of Food and Rural Affairs.

The petition is at