Leaders of biggest cities including Newcastle call for Government help to tackle air pollution
Leaders from across the country have joined forces to call for Government help to tackle air pollution.
Around 14 mayors and political leaders are urging the Government to support a network of 30 new and existing Clean Air Zones, where the most polluting vehicles are fined.
Among those backing the campaign are Newcastle City Council leader Coun Nick Forbes, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, and leaders from Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and the West of England Combined Authority.
A report released by UK100, a network of leaders that campaigns on clean air, shows that towns and cities could see an economic return of £6.5b with support from the Government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.
The Royal College of Physicians has assessed that the costs attributed to health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution are more than £20b per year.
Campaigners are now urging Chancellor Sajid Javid to make an enhanced Clean Air Fund the centrepiece of a spending round in support of the NHS, which is due to be published on Wednesday.
The group says air pollution contributes to up to 36,000 deaths a year and research shows that adequately funding existing Clean Air Zones and introducing new ones, which would charge the most polluting vehicles to enter towns and cities, could provide a boost to our health and the economy.
A national network of up to 30 Clean Air Zones across England, including London, could be enhanced and unlocked if an additional £1.5bn is committed from Government and business to tackle air pollution in the most polluted areas.
This would bring together £1bn in the upcoming spending round alongside £500m from business contributions, and would allow Clean Air Zones to be introduced in all of the places the Government warns will have illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide by 2021.
This includes towns and cities across the country such as Newcastle, Bristol, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Southampton.
The group also says that initial results from the UK's first Clean Air Zone are encouraging.
A report into the impact of London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) introduced in April this year shows the numbers of older, polluting vehicles has reduced by over a quarter.
Currently only six local authorities have plans to introduce such zones.
Meanwhile, Newcastle City Council has put together proposals to tackle air pollution, including plans to charge vehicles for driving in emission hotspots.
Under the UK100 plan, lower income residents and small businesses would be offered incentives of between £2,000 and £6,000 to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older polluting vehicles and switch to a cleaner form of transport such as electric vehicles or public transport.
As well as support for buying an ‘ultra low emissions’ vehicle, the cash could also be put toward car clubs, bike hire schemes or a public transport season ticket.
The report calls for a partnership with industry to contribute to a national vehicle renewal scheme, similar to how car manufacturers have contributed to the German Government’s Sustainability Mobility Fund for cities.
Polly Billington, director of UK100, said: "Cleaning up the air in our towns and cities makes sound economic sense and this study demonstrates that.
"It will boost the health of our communities and save the NHS money. Sensible investment by national Government is needed to support local authorities to take the most polluting vehicles off our roads while ensuring that the poorest in our towns and cities are not the hardest hit by pollution and measures to tackle it."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan added: "Air pollution is a national health crisis which is responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths around the country and costs over £20b a year.
"I have taken bold action to tackle lethal air in the capital with the Ultra Low Emission Zone, the first of the UK’s Clean Air Zones, which is already having a positive impact on reducing harmful emissions.
"But cities including London cannot deliver further Clean Air Zones without urgent Government funding. This funding must include a new national vehicle renewal scheme, which would help businesses and residents prepare for London’s ULEZ expansion in 2021.
"Everyone deserves the right to breathe clean air and the Chancellor simply cannot afford to delay immediate action on this invisible killer."
Article & Image Source: Chronicle Live