Clean air campaigners in Southampton have proposed making Southampton a car-free zone for one day a week to tackle air pollution.
Under the proposals, which are now being considered by political parties, streets in the city centre would be closed every Sunday starting from this September.
The proposals come as part of a clean air manifesto by Clean Air Southampton and Friends of the Earth Southampton, which asks candidates in the city’s upcoming local elections to commit to a list of ‘achievable’ clean air actions.
According to the manifesto, car-free days have already been accepted as an idea by the council and preliminary discussions and planning have started.
Liz Batten from Clean Air Southampton told AQN: ‘One car-free Sunday per month in the city centre [would be] a way to introduce people to the joys of being able to shop or sit at a pavement cafe or play with their children in a traffic-free environment – less noise, less pollution, safer and much more pleasant to be in.
‘Other towns and cities which have done this have noticed an increase in footfall, time spent in the centre and a higher spend per person – so it’s a win-win all round.’
In addition to car-free days, the Clean Air Manifesto for Southampton makes ten suggestions to improve the city’s air quality.
These include a 25% reduction in cars and vans entering Southampton and the introduction of low emission zones near schools.
Other measures campaigners have asked politicians to support include low-cost park and ride schemes and an increase in walking and cycling investment.
To date, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have agreed to sign the manifesto while the Conservatives and Labour have said they will not sign it.
The news comes as Southampton is set to introduce its first ever non-charging Clean Air Zone, which aims to bring the city’s air quality down to legal levels by 2020.
Under the plans, taxis and buses will have to meet the highest emissions standards in order to be able to drive on the city’s roads.
The scheme will be supported by a freight consolidation service which aims to reduce the number of trips that HGVs make into the city.
Southampton City Council received £1.8m of funding towards introducing these air quality measures from Defra earlier this year.
Southampton is one of four English cities that are set to implement clean air zones next year along with Birmingham, Leeds and Derby.