Solihull seeks £850k from Defra for air quality measures

Solihull Council will request over £800,000 from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to help introduce air quality measures on a heavily polluted road.

The council had previously been told by Defra to take action to limit air pollution on two sections of the A45 as they had been identified as potentially exceeding safe NO2 concentration limits.

Solihull’s proposed package of measures to bring forward compliance on the two affected sections of the A45 includes workplace travel plans, use of cycling and walking networks, car sharing schemes and support to employers to improve their vehicle fleets.

At a meeting held on January 17, the council’s cabinet approved a decision to request £824,373 from Defra to help it deliver measures at the two agreed locations by 2020.

Cllr Tony Diccico, cabinet member for environment and housing, wrote: ‘In February last year the High Court ruled that the government’s July 2017 NO2 plan was insufficient to bring the UK into compliance with the EU air quality directive and ordered that ministers publish a supplementary plan mandating action by 33 additional local authorities – of which Solihull is one.

‘A feasibility study was therefore undertaken to identify any mitigating measures in the specified locations, as required by the High Court.

‘A programme of intensive workplace travel planning was proposed, which is expected to deliver high value for money.’

The proposed measures has already been accepted by Defra and are set to be overseen by its Joint Air Quality Unit.

Two full-time staff will be recruited to deliver the initiatives within the council’s Highways Services department.

‘This will enable an integrated approach to support businesses by ensuring a joined up service,’ Cllr Diccico added.

The council will now update Defra on its progress in implementing the agreed measures by sending the government quarterly reports.

Solihull Council is already separately drafting its Clean Air Strategy for 2019-2024 which will flesh out its plan to reduce NO2 levels over the next five years. That will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on February 7.

In other news, a €3.8m pan-European project which aims to improve access to electric vehicles (EVs) through an affordable car-sharing scheme, successfully launched its first demonstration site in Solihull in December 2018.

Through a fleet of 18 Renault ZOEs, operated by E-Car Club working in conjunction with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Solihull Community Housing, residents will now be able to experience electric motoring, while reducing emissions and improving local air quality.

They can hire the cars from as little as £3.50 an hour, which is hoped will boost EV accessibility, reduce emissions and improve local air quality.