Agenda item

Air Quality Presentation


James Ashton, Transport Strategy Manager at Nottingham City Council, gave a presentation on air quality monitoring in Nottingham and Nottingham’s approach to the Clean Air Zone (attached with the original distribution of the minutes), highlighting the following points:


(a)  Nottingham City Council has been working on an approach to improvement in air quality for the last 2 years. Problems of air quality affect everybody throughout life, disproportionately young people. It is important to try to tackle these issues;


(b)  levels of all pollutants have been decreasing but nitrogen dioxide levels remain stubbornly high, and regulations don’t cover all emissions sources;


(c)  the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, published by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport named 33 local authorities with exceedances, set out pollutant limits, and gave options such as clean air zones. Detailed modelling was used to create the plan, using the government’s pollution climate mapping model. The area which are predicated to be over the limits are around crown island and the ring road, which does not match actual monitoring conducted by Nottingham City Council;


(d)  air quality monitoring conducted by Nottingham City Council shows the city centre has greater pollution problems, so there is an ongoing issue reconciling the government’s modelling of air quality problems with the City Council’s measurement of air quality problems;


(e)  Nottingham City Council has provisionally decided upon a Clean Air Zone type and a geographical area to be covered. Data has been collected regarding the types of vehicles currently using Nottingham’s roads. As Nottingham already has a number of options to discourage car use and encourage public transport, it is not necessary to target cars any further, and only minor changes will be required to fall within acceptable emission limits;


(f)  as data for the last 16 years has shown traffic levels dropping and public transport use increasing, we can assume that the government’s future modelling (which shows an increase in traffic volume) is a worst case scenario. Even given the worst case scenario traffic growth assumptions and no changes introduced, Nottingham would be on target to be compliant with emissions standards by 2024;


(g)  Nottingham has introduced a number of measures to encourage greater public transport use already, such as the introduction and extension of the tram, electric buses, gas buses, integrated ticketing systems, the workplace parking levy, a taxi and private hire strategy, a cycle ambition programme, a behaviour change programme, and using Go Ultra Low to encourage greater use and take-up of electric vehicles. Proposed additional measures being investigated include bidding for funding to retrofit older buses to the highest emissions standards, greater cycle infrastructure, introduction of an ultra-low emissions taxi project, and ensuring the fleet of City Council vehicles are switched to electric vehicles or those with the lowest emission levels possible;


(h)  the outline plan was completed at the end of February 2018, demonstrating how Nottingham City Council would bring emissions levels into compliance. The preferred option presented was for class B vehicles, with a very small zone in the city centre. The outline is not the final confirmed scheme, as modelling and reviewing of other options is ongoing;


(i)  consultation regarding the proposals will start at the end of March 2018, with a second phase in summer 2018 outlining more detailed plans. The deadlines to submit the final business case to the Secretary of State for sign off is in February 2019.


There followed a number of questions and comments from the Committee, and some further information was provided:


(j)  there are 5 real-time pollution monitoring sensors across Nottingham which monitor and collect data minute by minute, and a larger network of diffusion tubes which collect weekly or monthly data. Districts and boroughs are responsible for their own monitoring;


(k)  sensors near to Nottingham railway station indicate that it is a cause of some pollution issues, however the government guidance indicates this project is purely related to road based emissions. There is a disconnect between announcement of abandonment of railway electrification, and pushing hard on clean air zone;


(l)  the government will soon be announcing the Clean Air Fund, £225m available nationally, with further possible funding streams for other authorities to improve their fleet of vehicles;


(m)  whilst traffic light phasing can be changed if necessary to reduce congestion and pollution, monitoring would be required to assess whether it would help or if it is just assumed it would help. Often re-phasing of traffic lights alleviates localised congestion, yet moves the issue elsewhere on the transport system. Previous modelling has shown that the only way to reduce congestion is to encourage fewer vehicles and greater uptake of public transport options;


(n)  the project is being driven by DEFRA, who are funding the works, and it is possible that they may not agree with Nottingham City Council’s proposals. Plans will be submitted, but will then have to be approved by DEFRA. The assessment of the proposals will be based purely on improving air quality as quickly as possible, not on any other criteria such as cost.


RESOLVED to thank James Ashton for the presentation and note the contents.

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