OXFORD City Council has reacted to its ranking as the 13th worst area for air quality in the UK by saying tackling vehicle emissions is the key.

The Times newspaper this week published the results of an investigation which concluded Oxford had the eighth-worst levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) outside of London.

The paper reported that the average level of NO2 recorded by a government-run monitoring station in the city between January and April was 48 micrograms per cubic metre of air, above the 40mcg legal limit set by the European Union.

Oxford City Council, however, says that the average NO2 in the air across the city, as measured by 71 monitoring stations, is 35mcg per cubic metre.

The city council is not legally responsible for reducing air pollution - the only body with that responsibility in the UK is the government - but it has long tried to tackle the problem by working with the highways and transport authority Oxfordshire County Council.

Yesterday the council’s environmental sustainability manager Jo Colwell said: “Clean transport is the key to clean air – about 70 per cent of pollution in Oxford comes from transport.

“We are working closely with the transport authority to promote, enhance and deliver clean transport options, from cycling and walking to electric vehicles.

“The city council’s priorities include installing electric vehicle charging stations in residential streets, investing in cycle paths and parking, converting our fleet to low emission vehicles, and leading on the research to introduce a zero emission zone in the city centre.”

The city and county council have jointly invested £30,000 to investigate create a zero-emissions zone from 2020.