Deadline set for councils’ air quality plans
The UK Government has told 32 councils that they must submit timetabled plans by the end of July, aimed at bringing nitrogen dioxide pollution back under legal limits.
Updating DEFRA and the Department for Transport’s documents issued last July, the deadline follows the Government’s recent third defeat in the High Court by environmental action group ClientEarth, and it comes into force today.
The councils have until the end of July to conduct a feasibility study, and provide documents setting out the quickest possible ways to cut pollution on roads which will exceed the NO2 limits set out under the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive in 2018, 2019 or 2020.
Plans must include timetables for implementation, estimates for NO2 reduction, and an indication of how long it will take for the roads to become compliant. DEFRA’s original document said this should be considered with residents and businesses in mind, but hinted that it could include restricted access for certain vehicles at set times, or road charging similar to the London Congestion Charge.
Roads managed by Highways England are not included, and the Welsh Government will draw up separate plans following its admission in January that it hadn’t done enough to tackle air pollution. The deadline comes days after fresh criticism of last July’s target of 2040 to phase out the sales of conventional petrol or diesel cars and vans – as yet, there’s no clear definition of what level of electrification will be required by that point.
ClientEarth’s head of UK public affairs Simon Alcock said the documents released today added little to last year’s plans: “No extra money has been allocated to the [£220m Clean Air Fund announced during last year’s Autumn Budget], despite the fact that the number of councils expected to come up with air quality plans has more than doubled following ClientEarth’s recent victory in the High Court. And the car industry, which helped get us into this mess is still not paying a single penny to help get us out of it.
“People are breathing dirty air across our country and paying the price with their health – but cleaning it up is not rocket science. We need a national network of clean air zones and proper help for people to switch to cleaner forms of transport such as a targeted scrappage scheme.”
The councils named in the document are:
- Ashfield District Council
- Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council
- Blaby District Council
- Bolsover District Council
- Bournemouth Borough Council
- City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
- Broxbourne Borough Council
- Burnley Borough Council
- Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
- Cheltenham Borough Council
- Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council
- Kirklees Council
- Leicester City Council
- Liverpool City Council
- Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
- Oldham Council
- Oxford City Council
- Peterborough City Council
- Plymouth City Council
- Poole Borough Council
- Portsmouth City Council
- Reading Borough Council
- Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
- Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council
- Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
- South Gloucestershire Council
- South Tyneside Council
- Southend-on-Sea Borough Council
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council
- Sunderland City Council
- Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council
- Walsall Council