Sheffield council has today (6 December) launched a clean air strategy, a plan that the council has described as “the most far-reaching and ambitious air quality plan anywhere in the UK”.
The authority was one of the 28 named within the government’s national nitrogen dioxide (NO2) plan to develop and implement local proposals to bring the UK into compliance with EU ambient air quality limits.
As a result of this the council is required to carry out a feasibility study to determine whether a ‘Clean Air Zone’ would bring about a sufficient reduction in air pollution in the shortest time possible, or whether other measures could bring about a similar reduction in air pollution.
The plan sets out the steps that the council is taking to comply with this requirement, including carrying out the clean air zone feasibility study, which it intends to complete in early 2018.
Charging road users using older, more polluting vehicles has been identified as one of the most effective ways of driving down pollution, but within the plans published today, Sheffield council has stated that it has “no intention whatsoever” of charging private car users to travel within the city.
However, the council will consider charging for some larger vehicles including buses, coaches and HGVs for operating in any potential clean air zone areas.
Due to be approved by councillors next week, the strategy commits the council to working alongside the city’s bus companies to improve the bus fleet and reduce emissions through replacement low-emission buses or retrofitting vehicles with cleaner engine technology.
Buses currently make up around 2% of the city’s road traffic, but are estimated to contribute around 10% of emissions in the city. Of the 450 operating within Sheffield, only 9% meet the Euro VI emissions standard.
Other proposals will see the Council roll out Anti-Idling Zones around schools and other sensitive locations from early 2018 and establish a 20mph speed limit across the city centre.
Councillor Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport and sustainability at Sheffield city council, said: “Across the UK, air pollution is a public health emergency. Clean Air is a fundamental right for us all, but we face a significant threat from air pollution. The wide range of changes will help us to build a city for the many not the few, by making Sheffield healthier, easier to move around and grow our economy.
“This strategy articulates a clear and compelling vision for cleaner air in Sheffield. I recognise some of the solutions to our air quality challenge may not be easy, cheap or popular – but they are required and they are right if we are to achieve our vision for the fairer city we want to build together.”
Councillor Scott added: “Whilst the Council will do everything we can, the government continues to delay taking any meaningful intervention on improving air quality. Sheffield deserves better than this.
“There is not a tension between cleaner air and a growing economy. Polluted air is a major drain on Sheffield’s economy; currently costing around £200m every year. A city with clean air, an efficient public transport system, high levels of public travel and healthier citizens will have a stronger, fairer economy.”