MPs call to clean up every urban pollution hot-spot

Low emission zone sign in London. Photo: Flickr CC, EURIST e.V.
Sam Jones's picture

MPs call to clean up every urban pollution hot-spot

House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) calls for urgent Government action to prevent the 50,000 people who are dying in each year from air pollution related illnesses.

The EFRA Committee’s ‘Air Quality' report calls on the Government to take action and ensure that all pollution hot-spots can be tackled by councils and local authorities. It says that more action is needed “to cut the health and environmental impacts of pollutants, including particulates and nitrogen dioxide”.

Under current proposals from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), only the five cities of Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton will have the legal powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones.

Committee Chair Neil Parish MP argues this is not enough, saying: “Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.”

Cycling UK urges the Government to rethink its spending priorities to ensure that the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, currently out for consultation, actually includes some investment."

Roger Geffen MBE, Cycling UK Policy Director

The Committee has therefore called on the Government to devolve greater flexibility to all councils on use of development and traffic movement powers to tackle vehicle pollution in and out of clean air zones, rather than limiting to only five cities.

Encouragingly for cycling, the Committee is also pushing for Councils to be given the “support to implement programmes to encourage people to drive less and use public transport and cycle and walk more."

The Committee has also called on Defra and the Department for Communities and Local Government to preserve funding for wider programmes, such as those supported by the Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Like Cycling UK, the Committee believes such programmes which demonstrably achieve health and environmental benefits cost-effectively should be kept and encouraged, rather than being dropped.

Roger Geffen MBE, Policy Director at Cycling UK said:

“MPs have rightly called on Government to back councils in encouraging people to switch from driving to cycling.  Yet the Government currently plans to spend £15 billion over the next 5 years on England’s motorways and trunk roads - worsening air quality rather than improving it - while leaving walking and cycling cash-starved. 

“Cycling UK urges the Government to rethink its spending priorities to ensure that the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, currently out for consultation, actually includes some investment. That would be far better for our health, our environment, our economy and our quality of life.”

Cycling UK is part of the Healthy Air campaign, led by environmental law firm Client Earth, who are taking legal action over the Government's alleged failure to take adequate action to address the UK's persistent breaches of air pollution limits. Further information on Cycling UK's Air Quality policy is available in our Policy section.

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