The Government should not expect local authorities to act in isolation over air pollution from traffic, council directors have said.
Directors' body ADEPT has responded to the Government’s draft plan to tackle nitrogen dioxide pollution, which was published on Friday.
Paula Hewitt, chair of ADEPT’s Environment Board, said: ‘Local Authorities have long been frustrated with the lack of a clear strategy on air pollution coming from Government. We need the Government to take an active lead and not just expect local authorities to act in isolation.
‘Poor air quality affects everyone, but studies have shown that the impacts fall disproportionately on poorer communities. The Government’s own statistics show that the health and environmental consequences of air pollution are huge, causing 40,000 – 50,000 premature deaths every year and cost of £27.5bn, according to the EFRA Select Committee.’
ADEPT said the Government needs to make tackling air quality a greater priority and speed up the introduction of new measures. It said it welcomes a proposal to extend Clean Air Zones (CAZs), which could see high polluting vehicles charged for driving in inner city areas, but these are at the consultation and study stages.
Ms Hewitt added: ‘Most of the measures contained within the plan are designed to increase existing mitigation activity. We want to see new measures being implemented such as a more strategic approach to monitoring of air quality across the country and the introduction of a system that clearly advises people not to use their cars when pollution levels are high.’
The Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) said that ‘on initial reading’, some of the content and interventions in the plan could help improve air quality.
It added that while potential measures such as a diesel scrappage scheme and retrofitting on public transport and commercial vehicles ‘could be a step forward’, ultimately the most immediate way to tackle air pollution would be a large cut in the number of vehicle kilometres travelled.
It said this requires behavioural change through other means that can encourage mode shift to more active travel.
The CIHT also warned that some polities could having a knock-on effect. For example, a proposal to remove speed humps or altering traffic signals to make traffic flow smoother would potentially reduce exhaust emissions but could lead to speed increases and make walking and cycling more difficult or less attractive, with potential impacts on health and the added risk of more accidents.
It added that that installing CAZ’s ‘could just result in the displacement of polluting traffic to another neighbouring area’.