Councils welcome £2m Defra air quality funding

Local authorities successful in their bids for funding have welcomed Defra’s allocation of £2 million to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions in the UK.

Traffic queue near Lendal Bridge, York

Traffic queue near Lendal Bridge, York

Funding was granted late last month (see airqualitynews.com story) to 36 local authorities for 42 projects across the UK to investigate the possible implementation of low emission zones (LEZs) and to raise awareness about air pollution in the community.

Schemes granted funding include implementing low emission strategies, introducing low emissions incentives for taxis and buses, and projects to raise awareness of air pollution in schools.

York

York city council gained two sets of funding worth £150,000 for five projects, which include provision for vehicle demonstration days, the purchase or lease of a high profile low emission vehicle for use on promotional work and the development of a low emission taxi incentive scheme.

A Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refuelling feasibility study for the city will also take place, alongside policies to stop ‘idling’ on the roads and encourage drivers to switch off engines when they are parked for some time.

York councillor Dave Merrett, cabinet member for transport, planning and sustainability, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding. It will allow us to support and implement further our push for low emissions in the city. The opportunity to educate residents regarding air pollution and the damage it can cause along with the promotion of low emission vehicles will be a big boost to improving air quality in the city.”

Camden

Camden borough council is working on three projects from its £60,000 grant, including an air quality business engagement scheme on the south of Euston Road and the introduction of campaign days to raise awareness of air pollution forecasts. Funding for the latter comes in partnership with Islington, Croydon and the Greater London Authority (GLA).

Camden also received funding to provide infrastructure and education to improve air quality around two schools in the borough as part of the Clean Air Zones for Schools project. Funding for this project was granted in partnership with City of London, Hillingdon, Kensington and Chelsea, with each receiving £15,000 from Defra and an additional £25,000 from the GLA.

Councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for sustainability, said: “We are excited that Camden’s work to improve air-quality, not only in the borough but London-wide, has been given a boost. The three DEFRA grants that we have received with partners will help us tackle poor quality air around our schools, and give our residents and business owners better access to knowledge about air pollution.”

Teignbridge

Teignbridge district council in Devon was given £27,950 in funding for two projects, which are both part of its Air Quality Action Plan that was revised in March 2010.

One will investigate the possibility of introducing a low emission bus fleet within the district which will “provide efficiency savings for bus operators and give customers a more comfortable journey,” according to the council.

The second will be a feasibility study into whether an out-of-town freight transfer depot can be established outside Newton Abbot to help ease traffic flows, reduce emissions and cut congestion.

Cllr Kevin Lake, Teignbridge council’s environmental services spokesman, said: “We are delighted with this Defra funding of £27,950 and it is a great note on which to start 2013. It will really help in our aim of improving air quality in Newton Abbot, Kingsteignton, Teignmouth and Dawlish.

He added: “Like other busy districts across the UK, we know that air pollution in some areas is primarily caused by traffic and we’ve already successfully carried out some really worthwhile and innovative projects that have helped drive down emissions.

There is still a lot of work to be done to see if each scheme is practical, realistic and beneficial to residents and communities. This work will also include talking to partner agencies, local people and businesses to see whether or not they would support the projects.

“Clean air is essential for improving the quality of life in Teignbridge and improving people’s health. With this money, we will be able to continue working on achieving reductions in air pollution and making the district an even cleaner and greener place to live, work and visit.”

Bradford

Bradford metropolitan district council received a joint £150,000 grant with Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils as well as the West Yorkshire integrated transport authority to develop a Low Emissions Strategy and investigate LEZs.

Councillor Andrew Thornton, Bradford council’s executive member for environment, sport and sustainability, said: “The strategy aims to provide a way for all six organisations to develop co-ordinated policies to reduce harmful vehicle emissions and improve the quality of the air across the whole region.”

He added: “It will lead to health benefits for people living and working in West Yorkshire as well as doing less harm to the environment. This will include such activities as transport planning, cycling policy, fleet procurement and management, waste management, land use planning, raising public awareness and promoting best practice.

“The strategy will deliver a number of benefits and help us build partnerships with business and the community and other local authorities to achieve cleaner air in Bradford and the rest of West Yorkshire.”

Birmingham

Among the biggest individual recipients of funding was Birmingham city council, which was given £150,000 for the ‘continuation of emission strategies and low emission zones feasibility work in West Midlands’.

This includes the council’s Low Emissions Towns & Cities Programme (LETCP), which promotes compliance with EU objectives for nitrogen dioxide levels across the region by 2020 at the latest, and is run by air quality experts from all seven West Midlands metropolitan authorities.

According to a spokeswoman for the council, the focus of the programme is to devise a Low Emissions Strategy for the region, which includes a “technical feasibility study into the concept of Low Emission Zones”.

A number of borough councils in London – including Croydon, Haringey, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlet and Westminster – also received £21,429 funding for the Cleaner Air 4 Schools project, which aims to increase awareness of air pollution issues amongst parents, teachers, pupils and school governors (see airqualitynews.com story).

A full list of recipients of the £2 million of grants is available on the Defra website.

Projects in the planned second round of grants for local authorities have yet to be assessed by Defra, but the department says an announcement is due to be made soon.