Defra minister Therese Coffey has written to Derby and Southampton city councils requesting that they accelerate work on air quality measures.
The two councils were ordered by the government in its 2015 Air Quality Plan to investigate whether establishing Clean Air Zones or alternative measures would bring nitrogen dioxide air pollution to within legal limits in the soonest possible timeframe.
Government had set the councils â€“ alongside Nottingham, Leeds and Birmingham â€“ a September 15 2018 deadline to provide a full business case of their preferred options. If accepted by Defra, these options would then be implemented by the end of 2019.
Both Southampton and Derby have opened public consultations on their respective plans, with Southampton favouring the implementation of a â€˜Class Bâ€™ charging Clean Air Zone (see airqualitynews.com story), whereas Derbyâ€™s preferred option involves re-routing traffic away from polluted parts of the city (see airqualitynews.com story).
However, both councils have indicated that due to the ongoing consultations into the proposals â€“ with Southamptonâ€™s consultation due to end on Thursday and Derbyâ€™s on 24 September â€“ they will both miss the governmentâ€™s September 15 deadline for the submission of a business case.
This has prompted Dr Coffey to contact both councils urging them to speed up the development of the plans, warning that they could be at risk of ‘serious consequences’, if they fail to meet the legal deadlines for the agreement of their full plans later this year.
In her letter to Southampton council, sent on Monday, Dr Coffey wrote: â€œYou have signified that you are unable to shorten your timeline and it will take until late 2018 for the Full Business Case to be submitted.
â€œThis needs to be accelerated. Improving air quality and the associated effects of poor air quality has on public health is a government priority. I am very clear that local authorities must deliver plans so that nitrogen dioxide compliance is achieved as quickly as possible.â€
She also noted that the council had been in discussions with Associated British Ports over the potential impact that the Clean Air Zone may have on its operations (see airqualitynews.com story).
In Derbyâ€™s case, Dr Coffey acknowledged that the plans had been held up by a change in the political administration of the council, and that the council had been analysing feedback from her Department of its proposal for an incentive scheme to support the renewal of vehicles in the city. â€œI believe that you are reconsidering the scale and purpose of this scheme,â€ the minister wrote.
Dr Coffey has asked that both authorities provide an assessment of the impact that the potential slippage may have and confirmation that it will not delay delivering nitrogen dioxide compliance.