Industry stakeholders have responded to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ consultation on air quality, which was launched last week (13 October).
While organisations have welcomed the consultation, some have said that more funding should be made available for councils to tackle air pollution.
Defra’s consultation is seeking views on its framework for introducing Clean Air Zones in five cities across England and assist local authorities with providing a consistent approach as zones are put in place (see AirQualityNews.com story).
The government has pledged to introduce Clean Air Zones in five cities – Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton – by 2020. Other local authorities can also introduce Clean Air Zones and have powers to tackle air pollution, but Defra has said more needs to be done to bring down nitrogen dioxide levels.
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 Local Government Association (LGA) responded to the consultation, commenting that all councils across the UK should have the power to tackle air pollution and that the government should provide funding for this work.
LGA Environment spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said incentives such as giving electric cars priority “could be helpfulâ€? but that such decisions should be left to councils depending on local circumstances.
Mr Tett said: “Clean air zones may have a role in some places but on their own they are not the answer to tackling air pollution. Councils need a range of powers and devolved funding to allow them to further tackle poor air quality.
Mr Tett said these powers should include the ability to combat congestion hot spots and to promote alternative travel, such as cycling, walking and public transport.
He added: “It is also important that the Government takes action at a national level to incentivise a move away from polluting diesel vehicles to non-diesel transport.â€?
Sustainable transport group Campaign for Better Transport welcomed the Government’s new air quality consultation, but said that more is still to be done, including the introduction of a new Clean Air Act.
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport said: “The need to act on air pollution is urgent as the UK already breaches legal air quality limits causing tens of thousands of deaths each year. So while we welcome the creation of Clean Air Zones to help bring down already dangerous levels of pollution across our most polluted cities, we still need more to be done.
“Local authorities need to be given more funding and stronger powers to be able to introduce effective clean air zones that phase out dirty diesel vehicles and promote healthier transport choices.
“In the short term, we would like to see measures and funding to help people turn to cleaner modes of travel and targeted scrappage schemes to get rid of the most polluting vehicles. But we also need a new Clean Air Act, to give the priority to cleaning up our air that the original Act did 60 years ago.
“Everyone needs to have air that is fit to breathe and with the help of Client Earth’s legal action pushing the Government into action, it’s long overdue that we get action in tackling our lethal and illegal pollution levels.â€?
In a statement, environmental organisation Friends of the Earth said Clean Air Zones are needed in every large town and city in the UK.
The organisation also called for funding for local authorities to implement these zones and clean up their air.
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, said: “Everyone, no matter where they live, should have the right to breathe clean air.
“Local authorities should be supported – including financially – to introduce Clean Air Zones across the country. Air pollution is a public health crisis, it’s time it was treated that way.â€?
The government’s proposals came ahead of a hearing this week (18-19 October) as law firm ClientEarth takes the government to the High Court over its action on air quality (see AirQualityNews.com story).