Defra has launched a consultation today (13 October) seeking views on its framework for introducing Clean Air Zones in key cities across England.
The Clean Air Zone Framework, under consultation, aims to assist local authorities with providing a consistent approach as zones are put in place, while giving businesses and individuals a clear understanding of what a zone will deliver and its impacts and benefits.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has promised to introduce Clean Air Zones in five cities – Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton – by 2020, delivering on the government’s commitment to create cleaner air and reduce emissions (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Other local authorities can introduce Clean Air Zones – councils already have powers to tackle air pollution, but evidence shows more needs to be done to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We need to tackle air pollution and creating Clean Air Zones will improve the quality of life for people who live and work in our towns and cities, both now and in the future.
“Real progress has been made, but there is more to do, which is why we have also committed more than £2 billion to greener transport schemes since 2011.â€?
Clean Air Zones will target areas of a city where air quality problems are most serious, to reduce the impact on people’s health and create cleaner and healthier environments.
The aim of the zones is to reduce pollution in city centres and encourage the replacement of old, polluting vehicles with modern, cleaner vehicles – with most polluting vehicles, such as old buses taxis, coaches and lorries, discouraged from entering air quality hotspots.
Private car owners will not be affected, unlike London’s Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) – areas in which all vehicles will need to meet exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Birmingham and Leeds will discourage the most polluting diesel vans and implement other measures which may include park and ride schemes, changes in road layouts and provision of infrastructure for alternative fuels.
The consultation will run until 9 December. Defra will publish a summary of responses within 12 weeks of the consultation closing.
Following government-funded scoping studies, councils will further consult on the details of these zones next year. Local authorities will only be able to set charges at levels designed to reduce pollution, not to raise additional revenue beyond recovering the costs of the scheme.
In addition, applications are now open for councils to bid for a share of at least £3 million as part of an Air Quality Grant to help improve air quality in their area.
The government has faced criticism over its air quality limits in recent months. The Environmental Audit Committee released a report showing that in 2013, only five out of 43 clean air zones in the UK met EU standards on levels of NOx (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Following court action in 2015, the Department for Transport produced a joint air quality plan with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has been met with strong criticism and a fresh legal challenge from ClientEarth (see AirQualityNews.com story).