Local authorities should be given additional powers to tackle vehicle idling near schools and care homes and set up clean air zones to limit air pollution, a public health body has recommended.
The recommendations are among those put forward in guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE), on potential actions to limit air pollution for the benefit of public health.
According to NICE, the guidance which was published today (30 June) seeks to inform the public about the dangers of air pollution and gives advice to local authorities about how they can tackle the problem.
Recommendations include making air pollution a key concern in planning decisions made by all tiers of local government, and to consider siting new buildings and facilities in areas that would reduce motorised travels.
Buildings housing vulnerable groups such as schools, nurseries and care homes should not be sited in areas where pollution levels are likely to be high, and living accommodation should be local away from roadsides, NICE adds.
The guideline also calls on businesses and transport services to educate transport staff in more efficient ‘smooth’ driving skills, such as avoiding hard accelerations or decelerations.
It is claimed that ‘inefficient’ driving and fuel consumption leads to more harmful emissions being released into the environment.
NICE adds that councils should aim to reduce air pollution across whole areas rather than focusing on ‘known’ hotspots.
This could be done by introducing clean air zones restricting vehicles known to produce high amounts of dangerous pollution from travelling in certain area.
Within this strategy, local authorities could consider incorporating a congestion charging zone, where traffic congestion is contributing to poor air quality, the health body claims.
The guidance adds that councils should consider monitoring outside the zone to identify whether its implementation is causing problems in terms of traffic composition and flow.
Commenting on the guidance Professor Paul Lincoln, chair of the NICE guideline committee, said: “Air pollution is a major risk to our health, and measures suggested so far have not managed to tackle the problem sufficiently.
“This guidance is based upon the best evidence available. It outlines a range of practical steps that local authorities can take, such as the implementation of no-idling zones, to reduce emissions and protect the public.â€?
Publication of the guidance comes just weeks ahead of the release of the final version of the government’s plan to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in towns and cities.
Campaign group Client Earth had criticised the government’s draft plans, which it claimed would fail to bring the UK in line with air quality targets.
Commenting on the NICE guidance, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton, said: “Tackling idling is a useful measure but pollution in the UK isn’t restricted to the roads outside schools and care homes. What is hugely significant is that public health experts are promoting clean air zones which could charge the dirtiest vehicles to enter the most polluted areas of our towns and cities.
“The government’s own evidence shows this is the most effective way to bring down illegal and harmful levels of air pollution as soon as possible, which ministers are legally bound to do.
“So it’s astounding that the government did not make this clear to people when it consulted on its air quality plans for the UK, forcing us to go back to the High Court next Wednesday to try to get them to do this. If this is going to happen, then people need to have their say on it.â€?