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|Council awarded funding to help improve air quality|
|Thursday, 02 March 2017 16:47|
Southampton City Council says it will be awarded £892,000 to tackle air quality locally, but pressure group Clean Air Southampton, while welcoming the boost, says initiatives don’t go far enough, and is calling for better monitoring and government measures to “remove diesel vehicles from our streets”.
The Air Quality Grant programme helps local authorities tackle air quality in their areas to reduce the impact on people’s health and create cleaner and healthier environments.
This year it will focus on supporting schemes to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels.
Projects include a £253,880 scheme in Southampton and Eastleigh to support the uptake of low emission taxis, and a £99,000 scheme to fund eco-safe driver training on the council’s vehicle fleet.
A further £539,120 from the grant fund will be awarded as part of a joint application with the other Clean Air Zone cities, and Greater Manchester, to help raise awareness of air quality.
The government says it’s “firmly committed” to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.
Environment minister Therese Coffey said tackling poor air quality is a priority for the government, and that it’s “working closely with local authorities so they can play a crucial role in this”.
“I was delighted at the broad range of ideas submitted, from using the latest technology to promoting cleaner taxis and increasing the uptake of electric vehicles, and these projects will help to improve the quality of life for people who live and work in our towns and cities, both now and in the future.”
Southampton City Council’s cabinet member for transformation projects, Christopher Hammond, said: “We’ve made it our priority to reduce pollution levels and clean up the air that we’re all breathing.
“From eco driver training for all the council’s drivers, to supporting the delivery of ultra-low emission taxis, this grant will enable us to make lasting improvements to the quality of the air in the city.
‘People need to think about making changes’
“We all contribute to the problem and we all need to play a part in a solution,” he continued. “People from in and around the city need to think about making changes to the way they travel and adopting low-impact, sustainable choices. This can be as simple as swapping one car journey a week for walking or cycling. This will help us to achieve positive and lasting change, which we will all benefit from.”
Pressure group Clean Air Southampton said that while it’s “very good news” that local taxis will be helped to move to low emission vehicles, and that more awareness-raising work will be done, the measures don’t go far enough.
The group said in a statement:
Better monitoring needed
“Clean Air Southampton would like to see much better monitoring of air pollution in the city (as happens in London), so that we can be given accurate messages. We would also like much better reporting of air pollution incidents, maybe on the weather forecasts, on bus stop real-time signs and in City Council bulletins on social media.
“We have recently been through a series of very highly polluted days when emergency measures, such as removing diesel vehicles from the City should have been implemented. We are calling for the Council’s emergency plans to be updated to include special measures to ensure air pollution doesn’t get any worse on highly polluted days.
‘Roads should shut on Clean Air Day’
“The first National Clean Air Day will be on June 15, and we’d like to see the roads within the Old Town walls shut to traffic for the day (except for residents and deliveries) as a demonstration of how pleasant it can be and how much more attractive to visitors our historic centre would be if this were made permanent.
“However, the solution to the problem lies with the Government, which needs to do all in its power to remove diesel vehicles from our streets, and help the people who will be affected to switch to low emission vehicles.”
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