One of the most polluted cities in the UK wants to ban cars from school roads in a bid to improve air quality.
Environmentalists in Portsmouth have urged councillors to stop drivers from dropping off and picking up their children.
The city has come under fire for its worrying pollution levels and currently faces having a Clean Air Zone imposed, which could force drivers to pay up to £8 a day to use their cars.
The latest readings of dangerous nitrous dioxide (NO2) in Portsmouth show that 16 areas in the city are above the ‘safe’ level – up from four in 2017.
Currently, the five cities required to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020 are Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.
An environmentalist group called Portsmouth Friends of the Earth, have put forward an idea to the council, calling for them to implement ‘School Streets’ in the city.
The group’s coordinator, Rachel Hudson, said: ‘Our view is that people need safe and pleasant streets and if they have them they are more likely to walk, cycle and use their cars less.
‘Some of our B roads in Portsmouth are so busy, so noisy and so dangerous – they’re not attractive to pedestrians.
‘And cars are one of the biggest contributors to NO2 and CO2 levels.
‘One of the solutions have been looking at school streets, which close for through traffic at the beginning and end of the school day.
‘Residents can still get through.
‘This means that children will be safer from traffic and pollution.’
Councillor Suzy Horton, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for education, said she has already found two schools in the city that she would like to use to trial the scheme, which will affect hundreds of families.
Head teacher at Fernhurst Junior School Roberta Kirby said: ‘My initial reaction is that I would be in favour of this although I do think someone needs to properly consider how it will work.
‘You can’t just say “let’s close the road”.
‘We are on a very busy road but I think this scheme would work very well here as there are lots of roads around us that could still be used to get around if our road is closed.
‘Children could easily be dropped off around the corner to the schools. I do wonder how residents would feel about it though.’
Several other authorities in the UK already operate permanent ‘School Streets’ including Edinburgh, Hackney and Southwark.
Portsmouth City Council will also consider ‘Play Streets’, which are residential roads that are closed for a few hours on a Sunday to allow children to play safely outside.