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York reports air quality success for sixth year running

The City of York council’s annual air quality report, published last week (26 August), has shown improvement across the city, with three areas above national targets.

Gathered by a UK provincial monitoring network, the 2015/16 report will be presented to the Executive Member for the Environment at his Decision Session on 5 September.

Traffic queue near Lendal Bridge, York

Traffic queues in the past near Lendal Bridge, York with the city now acting to improve air quality on a number of fronts

According to the council, York has one of the most extensive air quality monitoring networks in the UK outside London, and has been monitoring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and other pollutants since 1999, with NO2-specific monitoring at 340 locations.

Annual Status Reports

DEFRA recently changed the local authority reporting system for air quality with the introduction of Annual Status Reports (ASRs) for all local authorities in England (see AirQualityNews.com story).

ASRs are intended to promote local transparency, increase accessibility of air quality to the wider public and encourage air quality improvement measures by those best placed to assist (e.g. directors of public health, transport managers etc).

The York ASR reported a decrease in NO2 concentrations at most of the 340 monitoring stations throughout 2015, in line with a steady downward trend.

In the Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in the city centre, NO2 and particulate matter levels were fractionally lower than nationally-permitted levels, which could remove certain areas of concern.

Measures

According to the council, these lower levels have been achieved through a stream of initiatives driven by the council’s low emission strategies.

The most recent Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP3), adopted in December 2015, sets out how York intends to continue delivering its strategy and work towards becoming an internationally recognised ultra-low emission city.

Measures undertaken in 2015 include the implementation of new guidance for developers to offset large-scale emission damage, the adoption a new taxi licensing policy with minimum emission standards, and the continued expansion of the electric vehicle recharging network.

Other measures include securing funding for the ECO Stars fleet recognition scheme until May 2017, to which 66 local businesses are signed up. The possibility of a local procurement standard for the vehicles used by council services is being investigated.

Future

Future plans for air quality improvement work in 2016/17 include a consultation and report detailing proposals to reduce emissions and support a Clean Air Zone (CAZ), an economic impact test, and details of funding and the impact of a CAZ on the environment and health.

The council also plans to launch an anti-idling campaign targeted at drivers, develop of additional incentives for using low emission vehicles and alternative fuels and work with building developers to reduce emissions.

Cllr Andrew Waller, Executive Member for the Environment, said: “While this report is very encouraging, we must continue working to improve air quality levels at key locations so that we can start to reduce the numbers of areas of the city under Air Quality Management Areas.

“The policy is to target the vehicles which cause a disproportionate amount of air pollution, and to encourage a switch to electric or hybrid vehicles.”

Award

Cllr Waller added: “Our work has recently been recognised with a £816,000 award from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) to fund a city-wide network ultra fast, reliable and convenient electric charging hubs.

“This follows £308,000 from DfT’s Clean Bus Technology Fund to retrofit 28 school buses used in around York with the latest exhaust emission reduction technology.”

The Decision Session takes place on Monday 5 September at West Offices from 5:30pm and is open to members of the public.

Related links

York committee report (opens as PDF)

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