MPs call for more Clean Air Zones


Powers to improve air quality should be extended well beyond the clean air zones (CAZs) planned for five cities, MPs have said.

In a new report, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee criticised the planned CAZs as too rigid.

MPs called on the Government to give all councils greater flexibility to use powers to tackle vehicle pollution both within and outside such schemes, as they pushed for more action to reduce the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 early deaths every year resulting from pollution-related illnesses, 

Birmingham is due to have a Clean Air Zone by 2020

The committee also urged the Government to consider introducing a diesel scrappage scheme for older vehicles. MPs also said environment department Defra should set out plans to cut all air pollutants from all sources, including the industry, energy and farming sectors, as well as transport.

Committee chair Neil Parish said: ‘Only five cities - Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton - will have new powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones. Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.

‘The zones need to deliver local solutions to local problems. Defra’s proposed “one-size-fits-all” clean air zones will set rigid rules on cities as diverse as Southampton and Leeds.’

In their report, MPs said: ‘Despite mounting evidence of the costly health and environmental impacts of air pollution, we see little evidence of a cohesive cross-government plan to tackle emissions.’

The MPs argued that Defra’s plans to improve air quality ‘focus too narrowly on nitrogen dioxide pollution, principally from traffic’. They added that the Government should ‘aim to clean up indoor as well as outdoor air’.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth backed the report. Air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates said: ‘The solutions are out there but we need the Government to listen to MPs and campaign groups and take more urgent action now.’


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