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Air Quality Consultations

Traffic jam
Traffic jam

DEFRA has launched two consultations on air quality.

Air Quality Management by Local Authorities

The first is aimed at local authorities’ Air Quality Action Plans and Local Air Quality Management.

The consultation asks questions about whether the requirements on local authorities should be strengthened. Councils may have to produce Local Air Quality Strategies, and their Air Quality Action Plans made available to the public.

The transport chapter mentions School Streets and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – but North Yorkshire is simply failing to implement these measures. (It is talking about a single School Streets pilot in Scarborough, and we have modal filters on Beech Grove in Harrogate, but that’s it for the whole county).

The Air Quality Management system isn’t working. An Air Quality Management Area was declared at Bond End in Knaresborough in 2010, but 10 years later air pollution was still at illegal levels.

The fundamental problem with this consultation is that national government is trying to palm off responsibility for air quality onto local government, when councils have little control over the causes of air pollution.

Expanding Road Capacity

Widening major roads or building new ones happens because of national government policy and funding. Millions are being spent increasing capacity at J47 of the A1M. Do those responsible for the project believe that drivers will just go up and down the A1M?

They won’t – a proportion will end up at Bond End, Knaresborough. Unless we stop expanding major road capacity, we won’t stop air pollution in Knaresborough.

Car-Dependent Housing

Another root cause of air pollution is car-dependent housing. Government policy in the National Planning Policy Framework is for active travel to be the first priority at new developments, but this is being totally ignored.

There’s an example at Trinity Fields and Castle Gate, Knaresborough. It’s a bit far to walk to Knaresborough High Street, and the cycle infrastructure is poor quality, token, useless, and doesn’t take anyone anywhere useful.

The planning system isn’t working and the funding clearly isn’t there to provide for active travel at new developments – so again this is a problem national government needs to address. I don’t discount the probability that planning laws are not being applied well by local authorities – that’s a contributory factor.

SUVs

SUVs make up 44% of new cars sold in Europe, and they generate far more pollution and climate-warming gases than ‘normal’ cars.

Again, this isn’t within the control of local authorities, although they could put size and weight limits on town centre parking spaces. National government needs to deal with this problem, but doesn’t have the backbone to tackle it.

A Role for National Highways

The second consultation proposes to designate National Highways (formerly Highways England) to collaborate with local authorities to reduce road pollution.

I have little faith in National Highways motivation or ability to reduce emissions. When they were called Highways England, they claimed to have built 160 cycle schemes, but couldn’t provide any evidence to support their claim.

National Highways just want to have as big a budget as possible, and build as many roads as possible. That’s not a good approach in the current climate. I suggest they should be made to spend their time and money building a network of inter-town and -city cycle tracks instead.

The consultations are open until 6th June 2022.

Air Quality Consultations

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