Eastleigh council in Hampshire has agreed to allocate more than Â£40,000 to two initiatives which it claims will have a â€œsignificant impact on how air quality is managedâ€ within the borough.
At a meeting last month (June 16), councillors agreed to allocate Â£20,000 towards submitting a low emission bus funding bid and Â£20,500 towards employing an air quality intern for 12 months.
It follows the councilâ€™s approval in January 2015 of an updated Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), after which the two funding opportunities were identified from Â£43,505 of developer contributions allocated to air quality in Eastleigh.
Under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, councils can ask developers to make monetary contributions towards mitigating the impact of their development on local facilties.
Around half of the money – Â£20,000 – will go towards assisting Eastleighâ€™s part in a joint funding bid with Southampton city council and transport firm Blue Star to a government grant scheme for the purchase of Euro 6 compliant buses.
The low emission buses would operate within the boroughâ€™s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) â€“ covering Leigh Road, Southampton Road, Romsey Road and Twyford Road â€“ where levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed national limits.
If the bid is successful, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) would cover 75% of the cost of delivering eight Euro 6 buses, which the council claims would have â€œsignificantly reduced nitrogen dioxide emissionsâ€.
The councilâ€™s allocation of Â£20,000 for the bid would cover the remaining 25% of the cost.
According to a council report, the funding bid is â€œan excellent opportunity to have a small but significant impact on air quality in the Eastleigh AQMAâ€ as well as â€œan excellent opportunity to promote the positive steps that Eastleigh borough council is taking to improve air qualityâ€.
However, the report notes that while the allocation of Â£20,000 will assist the bid, the money â€œdoes not guarantee a successful bid and expectation must be managedâ€.
Meanwhile, the council has been without an air quality specialist since December 2014, and has therefore been seeking a possible joint post with another local authority â€“ although councillors conceded at a recent meeting that this is â€˜unlikely to happen within the next six monthsâ€™.
Resources for air quality work at the council are therefore currently limited, and, as a result, Â£20,507 funding has been allocated to employ an intern for one year specifically to deal with air quality matters in Eastleigh.
Ideally a science graduate, the intern would: ensure the councilâ€™s air quality website is kept up to date; ensure monitoring data is reviewed and made public; carry out â€˜basic tasks in relation to monitoring equipmentâ€™; manage passive diffusion tubes and; assist with the preparation of future funding bids.
According to the council report: â€œA year would allow us to bring the website for the Eastleigh AQMA up to date and ensure that air quality monitoring data easily available. We can then review to see if there is a need to retain another intern.â€
The funding would provide the intern with a salary of Â£15,142 for the year, while the remaining money would cover remaining costs and travel expenses.