CIHT on Air Quality Plan

May 5 2017   | Region: Cymru Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland

CIHT on Air Quality Plan

The government today published a draft plan to improve air quality by reducing nitrogen dioxide levels across the UK.

CIHT welcomes this new air quality plan and on initial reading, some of the content/interventions contained within can help improve air quality. Potential measures such as the diesel scrappage scheme and retrofitting on public transport and commercial vehicles could be a step forward. Cleaning up exhaust emissions and developing new vehicle technologies can help improve the quality of the air we breathe, but ultimately the most immediate way to tackle air pollution would be to achieve a much reduced number of vehicle kilometres travelled. This requires behavioural change through other means that can encourage mode shift to more active travel.

CIHT has consistently called for a more joined-up and strategic view to how government policy is developed. The UK needs to take a coordinated approach to transport infrastructure to encourage innovation, deliver economic growth, social and environmental benefits. Infrastructure has been identified as one of the pillars of the current Industrial Strategy and we believe that the introduction of a UK Transport Strategy is now more important than ever.

We have concerns regarding the impact making policy choices aimed at one specific action that end up having another effect. For example, the proposal to remove speed humps and altering traffic signals to make traffic flow smoother would potentially reduce exhaust emissions but this could lead to increases in vehicular speeds and make walking and cycling more difficult or less attractive. This has potential for impacts on health (e.g. reductions in walking and cycling) and the added risk of more accidents.

CIHT is concerned that some of solutions in the plan whilst potentially easing the problem do not address the bigger picture. We believe these should be addressed through changes and more integration in planning and transport policy. Planning must address the delivery of transport infrastructure to meet the needs for development in the right place at the right time. An improved planning system should include transport networks and acknowledge the important role they play in economic and social development. The plan has to coalesce with other strategies including recent housing and industrial strategies.

CIHT has broadly welcomed the Clean Air zone Framework as it refocused attention on the desired outcome of ‘clean air’ rather than the issue of emissions which had been the focus of Low Emission Zones. The development of a consistent national framework of emission standards will help reduce uncertainty. Nevertheless for the measures to work they need to be:
•    Consistent;
•    Achievable;
•    Affordable for local authorities unless alternative additional central funding is provided;
•    It is important to ensure that it is understood that CAZ’s on their own are not enough, and that other air quality measures outside of transport are necessary;
•    Whilst local accountability is desirable, there is a requirement for proactive national leadership.

There is a danger that installing CAZ’s could just result in the displacement of polluting traffic to another neighbouring area. The desired solution must be to reduce the number of kilometres driven.  CAZ’s will be challenging to implement without central government funding and crucially their leadership.

An effective public education and publicity strategy is vital in achieving awareness and acceptance of the need to change behaviour to achieve better air quality. Engagement with the public is also key.  Advice to the general public and businesses could also include education on acceleration and deceleration which can be a greater source of exhaust and no-exhaust emissions than idling.

The nature of travel and the expectations of individuals/businesses are changing. CIHT believes in the overarching principle of creating better places that provide for all society’s needs. Understanding people’s needs and requirements (for example in investing in sustainable transport and through creating accessible and inclusive environments) should be used when planning, designing and providing transport infrastructure and services.

CIHT will be responding to the consultation.  If any member would like to get involved please email

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