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Sheffield Low Emission Zone moves step closer

Review of air quality in Yorkshire city designed to feed into planned air quality action plan approved by council cabinet member today December 13)

A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for Sheffield moved a step closer today after a review of the city’s air quality was approved by the city council cabinet member for the environment today (December 13).

The review was conducted to look at the feasibility of implementing LEZ measures as part of updating Sheffield’s Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP).

Sheffield Town Hall - the city council is currently working on a Low Emission Zone strategy

Sheffield Town Hall – the city council is currently working on a Low Emission Zone strategy

The study concluded that road transport contributed most to local air pollution and will help inform a range of measures to help improve air quality, potentially including a LEZ.

Furthermore, the study identifies that there needs to be significant investment in ‘green technology’ and alternative fuels, such as Compressed Natural Gas/Bio-methane and petrol-hybrid or electric vehicle technologies.

An earlier phase of the study looking at a possible LEZ for the city was completed in November 2012, but concluded that further work was needed to understand how vehicles in Sheffield contribute to poor air quality.

Now, according to the city council, it has looked at monitoring data for air quality at ‘hundreds’ of sites across Sheffield from the last ten years, finding that there are 51 locations where the EU annual limit for nitrogen dioxide was breached during at least one of the last three years.

LEZ

The planned Low Emission Zone Strategy has been developed to enable Sheffield to meet EU limits by 2015, and will mainly target buses, taxis and goods vehicles, the council said.

Councillor Jack Scott – cabinet member for environment, recycling and streetscene – said: “The Low Emission Zone study has set out how we aim to reduce air pollution in the city to meet EU limits by 2015. This will provide a better quality of life for everyone, especially those living near the city’s main transport routes.

“We recognise that reducing traffic emissions in isolation without tackling industrial, commercial and domestic heating will not achieve the overall improvements in air quality that we need. But local road transport must deliver its fair share of the improvements.

“Simply waiting for vehicle fleets to renew naturally over time and using better technology to reduce emissions from buses and goods vehicles would take until 2020 at the earliest, so a more proactive strategy is needed.”

But, the planned LEZ strategy will not include measures to tackle emissions from traffic on the M1 motorway or from the rail network – although these are known to contribute to air pollution in the city – as they are not under direct council control.

The UK government potentially faces heavy fines from the EU if air quality limits are not in line with targets by 2015. However, the government has the power under the recent Localism Act to pass on these fines to local authorities which fail to take action to improve air quality.

Councillor Scott added: “We all have a part to play in this and our partners must be firmly committed to the Strategy, but the government will also need to take the lead on key national policies to reduce the use of diesel vehicles in urban areas and tackling pollution from the M1 motorway.”

In February, a report by an independent Sheffield community body estimated that 500 premature deaths each year in the city were attributable to air pollution (see airqualitynews.com story).

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