York Green Party

Council to let city choke for five more years

23 October 2014

Despite having consistently breached UK and EU air-quality regulations, York's third Air Quality Action plan continues the trend of proposing ever small measures which will fail to tackle the problem.

The plan, which will be discussed at a Cabinet session next Thursday, will still fail to reduce vehicle emissions to a safe level, says Green Party Councillor Andy D'Agorne. It correctly identifies diesel engines - notably HGVs and buses - as being the source of the most harmful pollutants, but the measures it proposes are "weak and ineffectual". This despite estimates by public health researchers that poor air quality results in more premature deaths in York than the combined impact of obesity and road collisions - one estimate put the figures at over 2,500 deaths in one year across Yorkshire, and as many as three every week in York[1].

Councillor D'Agorne has consistently called for the Council to take measures to cut traffic levels. Instead, the Council is proposing to abandon the proposed "Low Emissions Zone" in favour of a "Clean Air Zone" which will only affect park and ride and other high-frequency buses in the city centre. Cllr D'Agorne is concerned that small bus operators linking rural locations to the centre will still be allowed to operate more polluting vehicles, and HGV deliveries and construction vehicles will not be restricted in any way at all.

Greens welcome the appearance of electric buses on York's street, and will be pressing for electric or hybrid buses to be required as standard in the next Park and Ride contract.

Councillor D'Agorne supports concept of anti-idling zones which could be established in locations such as Rougier St - but the Greens feel that the proposed 'partnership approach' with no signage or sanctions against offenders is too weak. "Diesel engines left running for minutes at stops like Rougier St are a significant waste of fuel as well as contributing to the NO2 levels that are in breach of the hourly average threshold. The council should install signs to remind bus drivers of the need to switch off if they are waiting at a timed stop in the Air Quality action areas."

Ultimately, the Council should be aiming to reduce traffic levels - but the Council's efforts on air pollution are losing against their efforts elsewhere, such as providing free parking, expanding out-of-town retail and toying with outer ring road upgrades.

Note -

1. This figure based on estimates by the Committee on Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP, 2009), quoted in CYC's 2012 Low Emission Strategy

2. The "Draft Framework for York's Third Air Quality Action Plan" can be read at item 4 of the agenda for the Decision Session for Cabinet Member for Transport (Thursday, 30th October, 2014 1.00 pm)

Clean Air Zone

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