Council consults on plans to tackle air pollution

Published on 17 March 2015

PEOPLE are being asked for the views on an ambitious ten-year plan to improve air quality in Leicester.

Leicester City Council has today (Mar 17) published its draft air quality action plan for public consultation.

Called ‘Healthier Air for Leicester’, it sets out a range of ambitious proposals that will help reduce air pollution in the city to levels that will meet the strict air quality standards set by the European Union.

Deputy City Mayor and lead on public health Cllr Rory Palmer said: “We know that poor air quality has a significant impact on health. It increases the risk of potentially life-threatening conditions, and can discourage people from healthy activities like walking and cycling.

“The city council has been working to address poor air quality for a number of years. This new action plan has a renewed focus on improving people’s health by reducing air pollution the city.”

The draft plan includes 22 proposed actions for consideration.

These include the introduction of a low emission zone in the city centre which will focus initially on buses, and exploring the potential for cleaner engine taxis.

The council also plans to lobby government for more action to reduce polluting emissions from diesel vehicles, and to ensure that air quality considerations are a key part of land use planning.

A programme of retrofitting the city’s buses with clean engine technology will continue, and the council plans to explore the feasibility of introducing gas buses. It will continue its support for the electrification of the Midland Mainline.

The council also plans to cut emissions from its own fleet vehicles by half over the next ten years, and will offer its training for ‘Greener Safer Driving’ to local businesses.

A second phase of Connecting Leicester will help encourage walking and cycling into and around the city centre, with the council aiming to double the number of daily cyclists to 13,500 in the next three years.

Other proposals include discounting parking charges for low emission vehicles, improvements to bus services in the city, extending the programme of 20mph zones, and developing and further promoting infrastructure for electric cars.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “We cannot ignore the association between poor air quality and poor health, and it is essential that our generation meets its obligation to improve air quality now and for the future.

“The measures in this draft action plan are proposed as cost effective and appropriate to the specific challenge that Leicester faces.

“It is vital that we listen to people’s views on these proposals, along with any other ideas they might put forward. Only by working together and committing to action over the coming years can we make a real and lasting improvement to the air quality in our city.”

Air pollution occurs when the amount of certain pollutants exceed recommended levels based on their known effect on health.

One of the main pollutants of concern is nitrogen dioxide (NO2), with road traffic being its main source.

European and national guidelines set a limit of 40micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre (µg/m3).  Like many UK cities, Leicester currently exceeds these levels in some areas.

However, the latest available data collected from the city’s five monitoring stations shows that nitrogen dioxide pollution in the city in 2013 was at the lowest levels on record.

Defra projections also indicate that air quality in Leicester will meet the EU threshold by 2025. This is based on improvements in vehicle emission technology alone.

By 2025, the city council wants to reduce air pollution to below the EU recommended levels in all areas of Leicester.

The consultation on Leicester’s draft air quality action plan runs until May 26, 2015.

For more information, or to take part, visit www.leicester.gov.uk/haveyoursay