Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) has today (29 May) called for views on measures the ‘third wave’ of 33 local authorities obligated under its nitrogen dioxide (NO2) plan could implement to meet their legal requirements.
Potential measures outlined within the consultation include encouraging greater use of public transport, walking and cycling, tweaking road layouts and changing traffic signalling to reduce congestion.
However, Defra has opted against recommending charging Clean Air Zones within the 33 areas, as it is claimed that it does not believe that the measure would speed up compliance with legal NO2 limits.
The consultation comes after the High Court ordered the government in February to direct these authorities to carry out feasibility studies to assess whether any measures could be implemented to bring forward legal compliance with air quality limits in these areas (see airqualitynews.com story).
Government had previously argued that mandating the councils to act was unlikely to bring forward compliance with the 40 µg/m3 annual mean concentration limit for nitrogen dioxide.
The 33 councils were given until July 31 to submit their reports to Defra, at which point government will decide on whether any ‘supplementary measures’ are required to be taken by any of these authorities to reduce NO2 levels.
Commenting on the constultation, a Defra spokesperson said: “This government is determined to tackle pollution. Last week, we launched a consultation on our Clean Air Strategy – the most ambitious air quality plan in a generation. Through this, new legislation will be introduced to give local government new powers to take action.
“Today’s consultation is an opportunity for local people to directly influence local authority air quality plans to reduce Nitrogen Dioxide pollution in their areas. This is part of our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside pollution, which will include the government’s Road to Zero emissions strategy later this year.â€?
The consultation, which runs until June 26, asks stakeholders to provide “comments and, where possible evidence on some of the potential measures that the third wave councils could take to reduce NO2 pollution in their areas to within legal limits in their areas within the shortest time possible.â€?
Local authorities can ‘consider the responses, as part of their studies’ Defra adds.
Councils required to submit feasibility studies include:
|Ashfield District Council||Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council||Blaby District Council||Bolsover District Council||Bournemouth Borough Council|
|City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council||Broxbourne Borough Council||Burnley Borough Council||Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council||Cheltenham Borough Council|
|Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council||Kirklees Council||Leicester City Council||Liverpool City Council||Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council|
|Oldham Council||Oxford City Council||Peterborough City Council||Plymouth City Council||Poole Borough Council|
|Portsmouth City Council||Reading Borough Council||Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council||Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council||Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council|
|South Gloucestershire Council||South Tyneside Council||Southend-on-Sea Borough Council||Stoke-on-Trent City Council||Sunderland City Council|
|Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council||Walsall Council||City of Wolverhampton Council|
Defra has stated: “We want to know what measures you think will be effective in reducing roadside NO2 levels in 33 local authorities in England. We’re also interested in how these measures should be assessed.
“We have directed 33 English local authorities to carry out studies into reducing nitrogen dioxide air pollution in their areas. The studies should identify whether there are any measures they can take to reduce NO2 air pollution in their areas in the shortest time possible.
“Your views will help inform the local authority studies, which need to be submitted to the government by 31 July 2018. The government will consider the results, and will publish a supplement to the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations by 5 October 2018.â€?
Defra’s 2017 NO2 plan called for action in 23 local authority areas where breaches of the legal limit are expected beyond 2021, on top of five cities mandated to establish clean air zones within a previous version of the plan. The plan was ruled unlawful following a High Court challenge in January 2018 by the campaign group ClientEarth.
Funding has also been offered to councils affected by the order, in the form of a £1.65 million pot in the government’s £220 million clean air fund (see airqualitynews.com story), whilst Defra has offered technical support through direct engagement with the councils through its Joint Air Quality Unit.