CIVIC chiefs in Southampton are set to launch an inquiry into the city’s poor air quality.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, the city has been shamed by both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Commission (EC) recently over the quality of its air.

Southampton is one of the UK’s nine worst air pollution offenders according to the WHO, while it is lagging behind strict EC controls on nitrous oxide levels.

And figures from the Department of Health show people in Southampton are more likely to die from the effects of air pollution than anywhere else in Hampshire.

Around 6.31 per cent of deaths in the city are attributed to air pollution, the sixth-worst in the UK and that figure has risen in recent years.

Now city councillor Jeremy Moulton, left, says he will use his role as overview and scrutiny chairman to kick start an inquiry to find ways of improving the problem.

The overview and scrutiny panel, which meets to look at council policies and ways to improve the city, could then put forward a number of recommendations for the council to implement.

Cllr Moulton, who is also deputy leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “We will look at the council’s air quality management plan and consider, in light of recent reports about the declining air quality, whether it can be beefed up and what more can be done.

“A major cause of pollution is traffic and this is exacerbated by congestion.

“Slow-moving lorries coming in and out of the docks will be a significant factor and we need to see how we can speed up the traffic.

“Also another contributory factor is likely to be docks shipping. So I think this inquiry needs to look at the city council’s transport options and also to engage with Associated British Ports.

“Another possible partner will be the bus companies.”

Cllr Moulton says he plans to start the inquiry this summer, and will also look for contributions from public health professionals.

Labour public health chief, Dave Shields, said: “I always think it is useful to look at issues through inquiries as long as there is objectivity, and I’m grateful that the scrutiny panel is raising this issue.

“This might be a good opportunity to drill down and look at the health issues related to air quality.”