‘Voluntary’ clean air zone under consideration in Northampton

Councillors in Northampton are to consider plans to assess the feasibility of creating a Clean Air Zone within the town, among other measures aimed at addressing air pollution at a meeting tomorrow evening (13 September).

The measure is being explored ‘proactively’ by the council, which was not named among the 29 councils in the government’s Air Quality Plan as needing to take urgent action to address air pollution.

Northampton council is to vote on early steps towards creating a clean air zone in the town

Clean air zones – which would limit movements of vehicles in highly polluted areas – have been identified by government as an effective means of improving air quality, and are among the measures set out in the national air quality plan, published in July, as effective in tackling emissions.

According to Northampton council, implementing the measure in the town would promote best practice and “help avoid wide spread issues in the future” – potentially caused by polluting vehicles displaced from other areas being used in the town.

Concern

In a report published ahead of the meeting, the council noted: “A number of cities in the near vicinity including Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Birmingham have been mandated [to explore the establishment of clean air zones]. There is a justified concern that with focus of Government action in those areas with mandated CAZ that transport and fleet operators could relocate their more polluting vehicles to areas such as Northampton where there are no enforceable vehicle emissions standards in place.

“One local bus operator has identified that future investment will be targeted at complying with CAZ standards in other regions, and therefore investment in the local Northampton fleet is likely to stagnate. It is therefore considered actions should be taken to address this risk and progress the development of a voluntary CAZ to set an appropriate emission standard for Northampton.”

AQMA

The cabinet meeting will also hear proposals for a number of existing Air Quality Management Areas within the town to be joined together into a single AQMA.

This comes after monitoring identified increased levels of nitrogen dioxide at Northgate Bus Station, The Drapery, Abington Square and Wellingborough Road, where no AQMAs currently exist.

The council has suggested that by joining these newly identified locations with current AQMAs  in the central part of the town to make one single, town-centre-wide area it can take a ‘more coordinated’ approach to tackling air pollution.

Work is also ongoing to draw up a low emissions strategy – aimed at encouraging the use of electric vehicles and other forms of transport.

Councillor Mike Hallam, Northampton’s cabinet member for environment, said: “Declaring a single AQMA in Northampton town centre is the most beneficial option to assist our plans for improving the air quality.

“The single area will mean we can tackle any issues in a joined-up manner and will avoid the potential pitfalls of moving problems around the town which adding more, smaller areas, could bring.

“Alongside this, we will be working with partners later this year to implement a borough-wide low emissions strategy. This will use policy changes and the introduction of initiatives, such as public charging points for electric cars, to encourage more individuals and companies to use low emission vehicles.”