City council also favours measures to cut diesel vehicle pollution in draft Air Quality Action Plan currently up for consultation
An ultra low emission zone and increased lobbying of government to tackle diesel vehicle pollution are among 22 Leicester city council proposals being consulted on as part of an ambitious 10-year plan to improve air quality in the city.
The 22 proposals are being put forward as part of a 10-week consultation launched yesterday (March 17) on the city councils draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP). The public consultation runs until May 26 2015.
Named Healthier Air for Leicester, the plan covers 2015-2025 and is based on four themes: reducing transport emissions, increasing active travel, improving traffic management and improving land use planning.
It outlines plans to introduce a low emission zone (LEZ) by 2017 in the city centre, initially focusing on buses using Haymarket bus station and St Margarets bus station, allowing only buses reaching Euro IV or equivalent emission standards.
The council will then to work towards an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) for all vehicles that are either zero or low emission over the period to 2025.
Another proposal favours lobbying of the government to introduce national measures to progressively reduce polluting emissions from diesel vehicles through the likes of fiscal regimes and disseminating national initiatives locally such as promoting uptake of low emission vehicles.
Furthermore, the council intends to look at exploring the potential for cleaner engine taxis and to ensure that air quality considerations are a key part of land use planning.
Discounted parking charges for low emission vehicles are also being sought alongside the continued implementation of 20mph zones and developing and further promoting infrastructure for electric cars.
The citys Mayor Peter Soulsby previously said last summer that an LEZ in Leicester is desirable, but not yet achievable (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, commenting on the consultation launch yesterday, the Leicester Mayor said: We cannot ignore the association between poor air quality and poor health, and it is essential that our generation meets its obligation to improve air quality now and for the future. The measures in this draft action plan are proposed as cost effective and appropriate to the specific challenge that Leicester faces.
It is vital that we listen to peoples views on these proposals, along with any other ideas they might put forward. Only by working together and committing to action over the coming years can we make a real and lasting improvement to the air quality in our city.
With regards to buses, the council intends to improve the citys bus services to encourage wider use while retrofitting 32 Euro III buses with cleaner technology by this summer. In addition, the AQAP highlights the councils intention to explore the feasibility of introducing gas buses as well as continuing its support for Network Rail in the electrification of the Midland Mainline.
The council also plans to cut emissions from its own vehicle fleet by 50% over the next decade and will offer its training for Greener Safer Driving to local businesses.
Meanwhile, a second phase of Connecting Leicester will help encourage walking and cycling into and around the city centre, with the council aiming to double the number of daily cyclists to 13,500 in the next three years
80% (3,190 tonnes) of Leicester nitrogen oxide emissions are attributed to road traffic, with 15% (630 tonnes) from domestic and commercial sources and 5% (213 tonnes) from industrial sources.
Some areas of Leicester currently exceed the EUs legal annual average limit of 40ugm3 (microgrammes per cubic metre) for nitrogen dioxide, yet 2013 data from the citys five monitoring stations suggest NO2 levels were at the lowest levels on record.
According to the council, Defra projections indicate that air quality in Leicester will meet current EU thresholds by 2025 based on improvements in vehicle emission technology alone, and by 2025 the council aims to reduce air pollution below these limits in all areas of the city.
The city council is one of 12 local authorities shortlisted in the running to receive a share of a 35 million government fund towards becoming centres of excellence for low emission vehicles (see airqualitynews.com story) as part of the Go Ultra Low campaign.
Part of Leicesters bid includes an electric car sharing scheme, increasing the number of electric car charging points from the current 24 to 8,000 and to get 6,000 electric cars on the citys roads over the next five years. The 12 shortlisted bidders have until August 31 to develop their proposals before four are chosen to receive the money in autumn 2015.