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Government identifies 33 further local authorities to tackle air pollution

Government identifies 33 further local authorities to tackle air pollution

A total of 33 more local authorities have been identified by the government to tackle air pollution in their areas.  

The development builds on an initial five local authorities - Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton - that were originally identified by the government.  

The 33 will introduce a range of measures to reduce harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions that potentially could include: ·        
  • The retrofitting of approximately 400 buses with technology to reduce emissions     
  • Traffic management measures such as adjustments to signalling to reduce congestion        
  • Behavioural change campaigns to encourage individuals to take action and reduce their contribution to air pollution  

Initially 10 local authorities will take forward new measures, developed with and funded by central government, to reduce pollution levels. They are: Dudley, Leicester, Newcastle-under Lyme, Portsmouth, Reading, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Solihull, Basingstoke and Deane and South Gloucestershire.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, we know urgent action is still required to tackle roadside air pollution in our towns and cities.

“This is why through our £3.5 billion national air quality plan, we are working with local authorities across the UK and I am pleased 10 local authorities will now implement new measures to drive down pollution.  

“The Roads Minister Jesse Norman and I have written to the leaders of all the authorities that have submitted feasibility studies to thank them for their hard work and underline that DEFRA will continue to support them to improve air quality in their areas.”  

While the government says that NO2 levels have fallen significantly in recent decades, including a 27% drop since 2010, the ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’ outlines how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hot-spots must take robust action.  

Earlier this year, ministerial directions were issued to 33 local authorities, requiring them to submit studies on the steps they can take to comply with roadside NO2 limits in the shortest amount of time.  

The government has now published a supplement to the plan setting out work carried out with those 33 local authorities and the further action which will now be taken.  

In addition to the 10 local authorities taking forward new measures to tackle air pollution, eight local authorities were now carrying out a more detailed study outlining how they would tackle the more persistent air quality problems they have identified. Those studies will be presented to government by 31 October 2019, at the latest. The local authorities include: Bolsover, Bradford, Portsmouth, Broxbourne, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent, Leicester and Liverpool.  

Portsmouth, Leicester and Newcastle-under-Lyme are also being directed to carry out more detailed studies, but have also identified measures that can bring forward compliance quicker.  

Eighteen other local authorities are already operating within legal limits or have not found any measures to bring compliance sooner. They will be expected to maintain their work to reduce pollution levels and improve the quality of the air, said the government.

The new government air pollution plan was ordered by the High Court earlier this year following a lengthy legal battle led by campaign group ClientEarth.  

It claimed that the fact that eight local authorities would now carry out a more detailed study outlining in detail how they would tackle the more persistent air quality problems they have identified highlighted that air pollution was “much worse than previously feared”.  

Arguing that it showed that ministers’ attempts to “pass the buck” to local authorities had failed,

ClientEarth claimed the fact that new plans were being drawn up highlighted that in some areas people could have to wait until 2028 for legal levels of pollution, unless urgent action was taken to tackle the problem. ClientEarth clean air lawyer Katie Nield called the plan “pitiful” and said that it was essential that the government took action on a national scale.  

Ms Nield said: “Amazingly, ministers have now ordered more plans, which means more delays. It shows a shocking lack of leadership on a key public health issue.  

“It’s absolutely staggering that only now, eight years after legal limits came into force, the true extent of the problem is being uncovered for large areas of the country. In the meantime, people in these areas have continued to be exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.”  

ClientEarth is calling for a national network of clean air zones, help and support for people and businesses to move to cleaner forms of transport, such as a targeted scrappage scheme and new clean air laws to protect people from the harmful effects of air pollution.