Clean air plan set to be published

Posted May 07, 2017

The Environment Department (Defra) lost a last-minute High Court bid to delay revealing the draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide until after the General Election.

This revised scheme could target Euro 1-5 diesel cars and Euro 1-3 petrol cars, but would be open to all drivers of such vehicles, as opposed to only those living in areas with particularly high levels of pollution.

Ministers have floated the idea of a "targeted scrappage scheme" to get dirty diesels scrapped.

Announcing the publication of the plan today, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom described it as a "common sense way" to improve air quality and build "a stronger and cleaner economy".

Local authorities should avoid charging motorists to drive into the UK's most polluted towns and cities, draft air quality plans have suggested.

These could include charges to enter and move around in the designated area.

The plan suggests that local authorities should extensively consult with local communities and businesses and allow a decent period time before implementation to allow the public to adjust.

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This potentially could impact millions of motorists and while the Government has said it wants to discourage authorities from going down this route, the strategy does not give a clear steer on how and when local authorities should implement which type of clean air zone'.

Reacting to the government's air quality plans, ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: "On the face of it, it looks much weaker than we had hoped for".

"Instead of bold commitments to improve air quality, the government is hiding behind yet another consultation and passing the buck to local authorities".

It comes as the United Kingdom government was ordered to reveal plans by the High Court due to the threat toxic air poses to health of United Kingdom citizens.

A "targeted" auto scrappage scheme was included as part of the scheme, but features in technical documents supporting the main consultation paper.

The issue came to a head with environmental law firm ClientEarth's legal battle with the UK Government last November, which challenged them over breaches to European Union air pollution laws and domestic regulation.

"The astonishing thing is that the government's own plan accepts that diesel is at the root of the problem, and that phasing it out is the most effective solution".

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London mayor Sadiq Khan said the proposals "don't go almost far enough to meet the scale of the challenge".

'However, it is deeply worrying that local authorities have an option of introducing chargeable Clean Air Zones which would affect owners of relatively new diesel and some petrol vehicles.

According to the Royal College of Physicians, air pollution across the United Kingdom is the cause of 40,000 premature deaths each year.

Co-leader Caroline Lucas said: "This feeble plan won't go anywhere near far enough in tackling this public health emergency".

Clean air zones should encourage the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles, for example, buy offering preferential parking spaces for ULEV drivers or lower parking fees while the public should also be encouraged to opt for "healthy, active" travel such as cycling or walking.

"Our long-term transport strategy is not to penalise auto drivers, it's to keep the city moving, reducing congestion and pollution by offering people good alternatives to the vehicle, including electric trams and buses".

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