Local authority leaders have warned the Government’s air quality plans can only be successful if they are supported by ‘local flexibility and sufficient funding’.
Environment secretary Michael Gove has launched Whitehall’s clean air strategy to tackle air pollution, including new powers for councils to help them improve air quality.
The environment secretary said the new strategy would halve the number of people living in locations where concentrations of particulate matter are above the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline limit of 10 ug/m3 by 2025.
The Government will also introduce new primary legislation which, they said, would give local government new powers to improve air quality.
‘Air quality has improved significantly since 2010 but sixty years on from the historic Clean Air Act a clear truth remains — air pollution is making people ill, shortening lives and damaging our economy and environment,’ said Mr Gove.
‘This is why today we are launching this clean air strategy, backed up with new primary legislation. It sets out the comprehensive action required across all parts of government to improve air quality.’
The environment secretary estimated the new strategy would reduce the costs of air pollution by £1bn every year by 2020, rising to £2.5bn every year from 2030.
The Government also launched a new tool to help local authorities estimate the economic impact of air pollution -- which contributes to 40,000 premature deaths every year -- in their area.
Past attempts by the Government to improve air quality have led to ministers facing legal cases over what were characterised as ‘inadequate’ plans to bring down the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.
Responding to the new strategy, Cllr Martin Tett, environment spokesman at the Local Government Association (LGA), said: ‘Councils recognise the impact that harmful emissions have on our communities and are determined to tackle it in all its forms.
‘If the Government’s air quality plans are to be successful, they not only need to be underpinned by local flexibility and sufficient funding but also accompanied by robust national action.
‘Good air quality is vital for our health and quality of life as well as the environment and we need to be able to live in safe communities and that includes making sure the air we breathe is as free from pollution as possible.
‘It is also important that councils have the powers to further tackle air pollution, particularly with regard to clean air zones as well as expanded road and traffic measures.
‘If we’re to truly tackle air pollution, we need Government support to enable us to deliver effective local plans, and robust national action to help the country transition to low-emission vehicles and power generation.’
This story first appeared on localgov.co.uk.