Campaigners and council leaders have called for local authorities to be given more powers and funding to tackle toxic air pollution following Government proposals on the detail of Clean Air Zones (CAZs).
Environment department Defra has launched a public consultation on the draft framework for CAZs, which were the centrepiece of its national air quality plan, launched last December.
Five English cities – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – will be required to implement CAZs by 2020 in order to bring nitrogen dioxide levels within limits set out in the EU air quality directive.
The draft framework includes possible incentives and benefits for the use of ultra low emission vehicles, including lower parking fees, access to bus lanes, exemptions from other restrictions such as one-way systems, and priority at traffic lights.
Local Government Association environment spokesman Cllr Martin Tett said: ‘Clean air zones may have a role in some places but on their own they are not the answer to tackling air pollution. Councils need a range of powers and devolved funding to allow them to further tackle poor air quality.
'This includes the ability to combat congestion hot spots - through enforcing moving traffic violations outside London, including illegal U-turns and box junction offences - and to promote alternative travel, such as cycling, walking and public transport.'
Bridget Fox, sustainable transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: ‘The need to act on air pollution is urgent as the UK already breaches legal air quality limits causing tens of thousands of deaths each year. So while we welcome the creation of Clean Air Zones to help bring down already dangerous levels of pollution across our most polluted cities, we still need more to be done.
‘In the short term, we would like to see measures and funding to help people turn to cleaner modes of travel and targeted scrappage schemes to get rid of the most polluting vehicles. But we also need a new Clean Air Act, to give the priority to cleaning up our air that the original Act did 60 years ago.’