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Clean Air Zones urged for pollution hotspots, says Committee

27 April 2016

Urgent Government action is needed to stop up to 50,000 people a year dying early from air pollution-related illnesses, says the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, in its report on Air quality.

The Committee's Air quality report presses for new Clean Air Zones in dozens of English towns and cities to cut the risk of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases caused by polluted air.

Clean Air Zones

Defra plans new Clean Air Zones for five of the most polluted cities but MPs say more is needed to cut the health and environmental impacts of pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen dioxide.

Chair's comment

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Committee 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.

Communities must be given legal powers to set controls that meet their own circumstances—for example, some might want to charge polluting vehicles to access zones at certain times of day or to target specific bus routes."

The Committee calls on the Government to devolve greater flexibility to all councils on use of development and traffic movement powers to tackle vehicle pollution in and out of Clean Air Zones.

Diesel scrappage scheme

Diesel vehicles produce more nitrogen oxides than petrol and alternatively-fuelled vehicles. The Committee urges the Government to consider introducing a diesel scrappage scheme for older vehicles.

Neil Parish MP said:

"Government funding for new refuelling infrastructure and grants to help buy cleaner vehicles such as electric or hybrid cars is welcome. But more action is needed if we are to get older, more polluting diesel vehicles off the road quickly. People need more of an incentive to purchase the more expensive low-emission vehicles: we want the Government to start planning now to introduce at the next Budget a scrappage scheme targeted at cars and vans ten years or more old."

Agricultural emissions

The Committee also calls for more spread of modern farming practices aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.

Neil Parish MP said:

"Farmers are under huge financial pressures at the moment. They can save money and help to clean up the environment and improve health if they use the latest methods for managing manure and fertiliser and for feeding their livestock. Defra needs to target best practice support, rather than add regulation, to make sure the agricultural sector does all it can to cut pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions"

Further information

Image: PA