Basildon rebuff government’s Clean Air Zone threat

Basildon council has voted against bringing in a charging Clean Air Zone with council leader Gavin Callaghan saying ‘we reject utterly the notion that a charging zone is an appropriate solution’ to tackle poor air quality in the town.

An emergency council meeting had been called in response to a ministerial direction issued by Environment Minister Therese Coffey directing Basildon Council and Essex County Council to complete additional modelling on measures that will improve air quality on the A127 by July 31 and to submit a full business case by October 25.

Coffey warned that failure to meet the deadlines could mean they would be forced to set up a charging Clean Air Zone in the town.

However, at the meeting councillors voted to bring forward a speed reduction of 20mph on the Basildon stretch of the A127 which they believe will reduce air pollution to a level that would satisfy the governmment.

Council leader Gavin Callagaghan said a charging zone would be ‘incredibly detrimental’ to the borough’s businesses and the local economy and that the introduction of a charging zone would put ‘incredible pressure’ on the Basildon stretch of the road.

The speed reduction, from 70mph to 50mph, will come into force on March 31 2020 following a statutory consultation this summer.

Councillor Callaghan said: ‘I am absolutely committed to improving the environment in which our residents live.

This council will act quickly to do what is in our power, and within our influence, to improve our air quality, reducing emissions and bringing them within legal limits.

‘We reject utterly the notion that a charging zone is an appropriate solution. We want to work with our businesses, not against them.’

A first Ministerial Direction was issued in 2017 to Basildon Council in relation to high levels of roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) on identified stretches of the A127, running through the Fortune Of War and Laindon.