Lacking ambition and vision - short on action
There are some positive aspects of the Air Quality Plan, such as the enforcement of engine anti-idling around schools, level crossings etc., a degree of pedestrianisation around schools, and expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, but we consider that overall it lacks ambition and vision and is very short on action and concrete proposals.
No traffic reduction measures
A major disappointment is that there are no measures for traffic reduction, but only for flow and traffic management. Analysis of the nitrogen dioxide data from many monitoring sites in the borough show that a 30% reduction in polluting traffic is needed merely to bring levels down to the presently accepted annual limit of 40mg/m3.
Lack of prioritisation
Measures which have the highest particulate and NO2 reduction potential should be implemented first. It is hard to understand why measures such as tree/hedge planting or building and traffic modelling, which have negligible pollution reduction effect, are given so much attention in the report.
Clean Air Zones
We strongly support Clean Air Zones with charging for the worst affected areas as a priority. These should cover a sizeable area and ban more than just the oldest cars. The effectiveness of Clean Air Zones is well established and we do not believe evaluation of the measure is required.
Action we would like to see
- Investment in cycling and walking infrastructure and measures to encourage these activities. This would not only reduce traffic pollution but also help to reduce obesity levels and noise and stress, encourage active and sociable living, as well as help in the attempt to control climate change.
- The introduction of a default 20mph speed limit across the borough. This has been shown to help reduce pollution, improve traffic flow and enhance road safety for cyclists and pedestrians.
- A much fairer allocation of the transport budget given to initiatives which help people to choose not to use their car
- Introduction of regular car free days, play zones etc which bar through traffic, as a means to encouraging a cultural shift, greater social interaction and creating a less car-dominant environment. We are disappointed that the potential for car free days has been discounted.
- Car parking charges to incentivise hybrid and electric cars
- Requirement for all buses to switch off their engines at bus stops in busy locations
- Safer routes to schools through some of the above, to ensure school travel plans can be implemented
- Use of evidenced-based good practice from elsewhere in the UK and Europe where improvements have been made.
Council should demonstrate leadership
The Council's role appears to be mainly one of guidance to other organisations, raising awareness of the problem or vague initiatives such as assessments, evaluation and continued monitoring. Councillor Fleming states that we all have a responsibility in resolving the problem of pollution. We agree with that statement. However, not only is the Council in charge of public health, but politicians must and should demonstrate leadership.
The measures outlined in the Plan won't achieve the necessary changes by the end of the Plan's period of 2022; the damage to human health and the environment will continue.
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