Work by Leeds City Council on increasing awareness of air quality issues in the City has moved forward with a report to the authority before Christmas covering a range of topics.
But, for improvements to be delivered, the city council has been warned that acceptance and understanding of the impacts of air pollution is crucial.
Back in October 2016, the council’s Scrutiny Board on Environment and Housing agreed terms of reference for a scrutiny inquiry into improving air quality in the city.
Leeds has already been designated as one of the five cities in England chosen by the government to be made into Clean Air Zones by 2020 as part of work to comply with the EU Directive on NO2 emissions.
In a report to the city’s environment and housing scrutiny board, the city’s director of environment and housing, Neil Evans, explained that air pollution was a health issue which did not have the level of awareness that other issues did, such as obesity and smoking.
Mr Evans stated: “To improve the quality of life of Leeds’ residents, whilst improving air quality, public awareness needs to be improved so that individuals are empowered to make decisions to alleviate their exposure to emissions, and reduce their own contribution to these emissions.”
The report then explains sources of air pollution and notes that “to improve the quality of air in Leeds, a modal shift to sustainable forms of transport is vital.”
“Jumping in the car” – rather than using other transport means is highlighted in the report as a significant challenge to be tackled.
“To improve the quality of air in Leeds,” says the report, “a modal shift to sustainable forms of transport is vital. This means encouraging stakeholders to switch from jumping in the car each time they travel, to using public transport or active transport such as cycling, running or walking. In terms of business, this means encouraging fleet change to lower emissions vehicles, and consolidation practices to reduce the number of delivery vehicles on our roads.”
And, last month, Leeds unveiled a new transport strategy for the city (see airqualitynews.com story )
For better engagement within the city, the authority notes that it has four overarching aims:
- Raising awareness and sharing information
- Consultation and engagement activity
- Promoting active partnerships
- Organising events and activities
Much of the work will be website based and future information will include points such as advice for members of the public to avoid personal exposure to air pollution, “including factual information from recent studies e.g. ‘you are actually exposed to more emissions whilst sat in your car in busy traffic than walking or cycling alongside”.
There is a need to ensure that the impact on public health caused by Air Quality is understood across the city in order for the measures that need to be taken to reduce emissions are supported – report to Scrutiny Board.
Leeds city council will also need to get the air pollution impacts message over to those in the city if it wants to get support for policies, says Mr Evans.
The report points out that “There is a need to ensure that the impact on public health caused by Air Quality is understood across the city in order for the measures that need to be taken to reduce emissions are supported. The requirement to comply with the government’s plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone will require fleet owners across the city to be aware of how to comply with schemes to reduce emissions. The communications plan will need to ensure that any schemes are clearly articulated to all key stakeholders.”