New pollution proposals an ‘abdication of responsibility’ – Brake

12.00 | 8 May 2017 | | 6 comments

A new Government strategy, which sets out actions to meet air quality standards across Great Britain, includes proposals (among others) for local authorities to replace speed humps with other means to slow vehicles down.

Under the plan, published for consultation on 5 May, drivers of some older cars could be paid to move to electric vehicles. Other proposals include retrofitting engines on buses, lorries and black cabs with pollution-reducing technology, and establishing ‘clean air zones’ in dozens of cities and towns.

Local authorities are already responsible for improving air quality in their area, but the Government says they will now be expected to ‘develop new and creative solutions to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, while avoiding undue impact on the motorist’.

The road safety charity Brake has accused ministers of ‘abdicating responsibility’ by passing on the matter to local authorities.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “It appears the government has abdicated responsibility for reducing air pollution to local authorities. If any issue needs tackling on a national – and international – level, it’s this one. We have a national health emergency, and the government is kicking the issue into the long grass.

“The idea that removing speed bumps on local roads will somehow reduce air pollution is both cynical and misguided. Most of the pollution comes from vehicles travelling on major routes, in big urban conurbations. Speed bumps are a red herring and the government knows it.”

While a majority of the proposals are welcomed by the RAC, the motorists’ organisation says it is ‘deeply worrying’ that local authorities could have an option of introducing chargeable clean air zones.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “We welcome many of the proposals. However, it is deeply worrying that local authorities have an option of introducing chargeable clean air zones which would affect owners of relatively new diesel and some petrol vehicles.

“This potentially could impact millions of motorists and while the Government has said it wants to discourage authorities from going down this route, the strategy does not give a clear steer on how and when local authorities should implement which type of clean air zone.

“We believe that efforts should squarely be focused on tackling those oldest vehicles that do the highest number of miles in affected areas, and that charges to owners of all but the newest diesel cars should be an absolute last resort.”

The Government is seeking views on these proposals, which have been published after a long legal battle, in advance of preparing its final plan for publication by 31 July – in line with the timetable directed by the Courts. The consultation will run until 15 June.

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    It’s all relative though Pat. As a cycle-riding, walking to school, playing in the street, child growing up in the 1960s in Liverpool, when cars had no emission control whatsover, I presume I must have been exposed daily to 100% of vehicle exhaust emissions. Later on as an adult commuting each day through the Mersey Tunnnels, I would also have been exposed to high levels of pollution (pre A/C). I won’t say “…but it never did me any harm”, as I don’t know whether it did or not.

    Is it technically possible to have nil harmful emissions from conventional fuel-burning vehicles anyway? If not, then we surely just have to live with it as the price for mobility. Of those who purchase new or newish cars, what percentage consider their car of choice’s harmful emissions over and above anything else and are they concerned for their own health as occupants, or that of those around them? To be honest, it wouldn’t be on my list of considerations when buying a car (whereas A/C would!) but no doubt it’s important for others.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Hugh, regards the question on emissions: Are all newer cars equal and is there much more to be gained? No and Yes in that order.

    The April edition of Which? magazine cites from their own independent testing that the Renault engined brands that meet Euro 5 and Euro 6 tests can produce SEVERAL TIMES more NOx emissions than the cleanest car brands.

    So there is still much scope for improvement on engine technology if the worst real world emissions vehicles came up to the level of the best. If there is any blame it is on those who set the standards and allow the loopholes to remain.

    Methinks changes to testing standards can’t come too soon.

    Pat, Wales
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    The article Mr Guzzi referred to, highlighted an old ‘A’ road carrying heavy traffic (in both senses of the word) passing within feet of peoples’ properties and where the noise and air pollution must be unbearable…but the Brake objection is to removal of speed bumps which would not be on ‘A’roads anyway and more likely to be in the suburbs as depicted in the (presumably) random photo above and where HGVs would not be regular users, properties not necessarily within touching distance of the vehicles and where I would expect the speeds of the passing vehicles to be more of an immediate problem than what’s coming out of the tailpipes.

    From what I’ve gleaned, automotive technology has now removed 97% of harmful exhaust gases so perhaps there is no more scope for improvement there, apart from scrapping the internal combustion engine completely and/or encouraging people not to mingle with, or live near traffic, which I admit is easier said than done, if not impossible.

    As individuals, we still need to move around however – not to mention the delivery of goods and services – and the power source we’ve mainly used to date happens to be a pollutant – but although I have no expertise on this – it seems to me that thanks to Government intervention over the years (particularly in the US) and the efforts of motor manufacturers, it’s nowhere near as bad as it could be and perhaps its a price we have to pay for enjoying motorised mobility.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Main traffic corridors on cross country routes with fairly still air trapped by steep sided valleys generates high concentrations of pollution. One of the worst places for air pollution outside London is in Gwent.

    Guzzi , Newport
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    I thought since exhaust gasses had been slowly but surely cleaned up bit-by-bit over the last four decades or so, that it wasn’t the problem it used to be and that vehicle speeds are always going to be more of a concern to residents and ‘exposed’ road users. I would expect pollution to be noticeable in city centres, but less so elsewhere in the suburbs and beyond.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I’m sure it is purely political.

    The way I see it is that the government have two key objectives around this:
    1.Concentrate all their efforts to try and win the general election on 8 June and avoid alienating masses of voters in the meantime.

    2. Avoid conflict and battles with the High Court over air quality.

    The obvious result is for them to issue a weak strategy that does not have to be dealt again with until after the 8 June election. Right or wrong, that’s life.

    It could be that the final version of the strategy could look completely different by 31 July.

    Pat, Wales
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