Derby council has taken a step closer to finalising its full plan for tackling illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide air pollution in the city – with councillors backing the authority’s proposal not to implement a charging Clean Air Zone.
Instead the council is proposing a plan based around traffic management measures, focused on reducing roadside NO2 on Stafford Street on the outer ring of the city centre.
The option was heavily favoured by residents and businesses responding to the council’s consultation on proposals to address air pollution which closed on 24 September, which attracted around 2,500 responses. Around 73.6% of respondents favoured the non-charging zone option.
Full plans are expected to be brought forward by the local authority by the end of November, which will then be considered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Derby was one of five authorities ordered by government in its 2015 air quality plan to carry out work to achieve compliance with EU air quality limit.
This includes examining a range of options including whether a Clean Air Zone could bring down concentrations of nitrogen dioxide pollution in line with legal limits ahead of current projections.
According to documents published ahead of a meeting into the plan last week – the council’s traffic management proposals will deliver compliance with the legal NO2 limit at least 12 months after having been implemented.
This, the council claims, would be a speedier improvement than that likely from any potential charging Clean Air Zone – the option that the council is required to consider to ensure its plan meets its legal requirements.
Testing of the proposal, the council has said, demonstrates that no other areas will exceed NO2 limits as a result of the proposed scheme, although it has conceded that the proposal may attract criticism “that it does not do enough to improve the wider issue of air qualityâ€?.
In documents published ahead of last week’s meeting, council officers noted: “Recent discussions with Defra have confirmed that it is not a legal requirement to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). It has always been clear that a CAZ could include a chargeable access restriction but could be implemented without charges for drivers.
“The implementation of a CAZ without charging would probably require a wide ranging policy for the area within the zone. The recommended preferred option does not propose a CAZ but the option does mean that the assessment of development proposals will have to demonstrate that the beneficial impact of the preferred option is not undermined.â€?
The council is also developing a business case for government that will see it appeal for funds to support a ‘Clean Air Incentive Scheme’ to speed up a switch to cleaner vehicles and to support ‘sustainable and active travel’.
The documents add: “A further consultation is proposed, subject to the approval of Option 1 as the preferred option, to set out more detail of the traffic management plan for Stafford Street. The plan will include changes to the traffic signal timings at the junctions at each end of Stafford Street to control the volume of traffic using the specific street. In addition there will be a need to implement a new urban traffic management and control system across a wider area of the city, which will optimise traffic flow on adjacent routes.
“It is also likely that physical changes will be required to specific junctions to support the traffic signal changes and provide some mitigation for traffic using alternative routes. Details will also be provided the current predicted change to traffic flows. The proposed solution will not produce NO2 exceedance points on other roads.
“The project will continue to be developed and further detailed test will be made as part of the development of the Final Business Case. The further consultation would also set out additional measures to be included in the Clean Air Fund bid which aims to have a wider beneficial impact.â€?
Derby’s preferred option not to introduce a charging CAZ has been welcomed by the rental car industry trade body the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which suggested that the move suggests that Clean Air Zones ‘are not a silver bullet’ for addressing air pollution.
The organisation’s chief executive, Gerry Keaney, said: “Derby city council has shown it is possible to apply a different approach to tackle congestion and the other sources of pollution. While Clean Air Zones may be necessary in some cities, they are not a silver bullet for every scenario.â€?