POLLUTION is still proving to be a huge problem in Winchester – but the city council is striving for change.

A town forum heard that the latest Air Quality Supplementary Planning Document will clamp down on new developments and travel.

According to Public Health England data, around 51 city residents per year die prematurely due to poor air quality.

Business support officer David Ingram said the number of years people have lost from their lives is "much higher".

The document, which is now out for public consultation, shows a new planning structure.

Those looking to build a small development (less than 10 dwellings) will need to provide an air quality statement. Bigger developers must fill out an air quality assessment, where they will have to prove their intentions to offset carbon output.

Cllr Liz Hutchison questioned this at the forum on March 17: "I appreciate the effort that has gone into this planning structure, but what can be done to encourage active travel?

"The vast majority of residential developments in Winchester take place in very condensed areas where short journeys for the most part can be carried out through walking and cycling.

"I'm wondering what was going to be done to encourage this?"

David Ingram said that developers will need to provide weather proof cycle storage somewhere on-site.

"I appreciate that, but what other opportunities of connection are there to make better routes for pedestrians and cyclists? What extent is that going to be embedded?"

Mr Ingram said that a whole host of mitigation for reducing carbon will need to be listed by the developers.

Currently, the council aims to keep nitrogen dioxide levels in the city below 40 micrograms per cubic metre on average. This target was met in 2020.

But Cllr Dominic Hiscock asked whether this could be lowered.

"This target has been the same for a long time now," he said. "In your personal or professional opinion, do you ever see it being reduced?"

Mr Ingram said: "This target of 40 micrograms per cubic metre has stayed pretty consistent. In fact, it's pretty consistent across the nation.

"What I didn't mention in the presentation is that we are keenly awaiting the passing of the environmental bill which is expected to be adopted later this year.

"This will give us power to set new standards for particulates which are not currently the national standards. A debate is ongoing as to whether or not adopt the European standard, which is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, or the World Health Organisation standard, which is 10 micrograms per cubic metre."