Derby city council has defended itself amid criticism from the Environment Minister, Therese Coffey, who questioned the council’s ‘urgency’ in developing measures to tackle air pollution limit breaches in the city.
Giving evidence at a select committee hearing on air quality last week, Dr Coffey told MPs that she had written to Derby to express ‘serious concerns’ over progress in tackling air quality within the city (see airqualitynews.com story).
The authority was one of five named within the government’s 2015 air quality plan as being required to establish a clean air zone by 2020 to help bring the UK into compliance with the Air Quality Directive target on nitrogen dioxide emissions.
Other cities included in the 2015 were Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Leeds, which outlined proposals for a clean air zone in the city this week (see airqualitynews.com story).
Facing questions from MPs during the inquiry last week, Dr Coffey said that she had written to the five authorities to reiterate the timetables they are expected to meet to deliver proposals to address air quality limit exceedences.
She said: “We have already made progress with the five cities and I have already written to those councils recently, because one in particular really concerns me regarding their sense of urgency, and that is Derby. I have indicated to those five cities that, if necessary, I will have to issue further directions to them to accelerate their work.”
However, responding to the comments from the minister, Derby city council stated that it had received Dr Coffey’s letter, which it said confirmed the deadline for submission of proposals as summer 2018 – a timetable that the council has said it is on course to meet.
A spokesman for the authority said: “We have all been following direction and guidance from Defra and the progress we have made is very similar to the progress in the other local authorities in terms of complex modelling activities and working within the national methodology that has been developed. All of the Local Authorities have been required to submit reports at various points and we have met all of the deadlines so far with the technical work.”
The spokesman added that the council is working on ‘assessment models’ to determine the best combination of options which will establish which options are brought forward. A final decision on each of the cities’ plans will be made by the Secretary of State for Environment in the autumn of 2018.
Representatives from the council also met with Defra last week to assess progress in drawing up the proposals.
The spokesman added: “The series of meetings with local authorities in November, and our meeting with Defra on Thursday 30th November was a useful check point. This is a very complicated project and Defra offered some additional useful guidance and point out some key areas where we need to concentrate our efforts over the next few weeks.”
A scoping study is currently underway to determine the location and specification of the Clean Air Zone for Derby.
And, documents published ahead of a meeting of the council’s cabinet in March 2017 offer a glimpse of some of the measures being considered by the authority in order to comply with the direction from government.
These suggest that the council has considered a ‘chargeable access restriction’ applying to vehicles including certain buses, taxis and HGVs within an area bounded by the inner ring road which circles the city centre by 2020. This could then be widened by 2025.