ADEPT, the Association of the Directors of Economy, Environment, Planning and Transport has responded to the publication of the Government’s draft air pollution plan.
After the recent drama of court cases and high court judgments, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has finally published ‘Improving air quality in the UK: tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities.”
Responding to the long awaited report, Chair of ADEPT’s Environment Board, Paula Hewitt said: “Local Authorities have long been frustrated with the lack of a clear strategy on air pollution coming from Government. We need the Government to take an active lead and not just expect Local Authorities to act in isolation.
“Poor air quality affects everyone, but studies have shown that the impacts fall disproportionately on poorer communities. The Government’s own statistics show that the health and environmental consequences of air pollution are huge, causing 40,000 – 50,000 premature deaths every year and a cost of £27.5bn, according to the EFRA Select Committee.”
Local Authorities are already heavily involved in the Clean Air Zone pilots, a Government initiative that could see high polluting vehicles charged for driving in inner city areas, but these are at the consultation and study stages. ADEPT is concerned that the Government needs to make tackling air quality a greater higher priority to speed up the introduction of new measures, and welcomes its commitment to extend these zones.
“ADEPT members have been working on a variety of strategies and schemes such as Park and Ride and pedestrianisation for many years, raising awareness of the seriousness of the issue and to encourage the reduction of car use in their communities.
“We cannot delay substantive action on air quality any longer. ADEPT welcomes the Government’s additional measures, particularly the increase in funding to speed up the use of hydrogen vehicles and electric taxis, retrofitting and the wider use of environmental performance information, but this is not enough.
“Most of the measures contained within the plan are designed to increase existing mitigation activity. We want to see new measures being implemented such as a more strategic approach to monitoring of air quality across the country and the introduction of a system that clearly advises people not to use their cars when pollution levels are high.
“Sustainable transport policies need to be incentivised which is why we welcome any scheme that encourages the scrapping of diesel vehicles and that prioritise walking, cycling and the use of public transport wherever possible.”
ADEPT is the voice of Local Authority county, unitary and metropolitan Strategic Place Directors across England with responsibility for the key place based services, including transport, environment, planning, economic development, housing and waste.