Southampton’s Clean Air Strategy gets the green light

Southampton City Council has underlined its commitment to improving air quality in the city with the approval of a Clean Air Strategy by the council’s cabinet this week (15 November).

The strategy includes a commitment to introduce a scheme of measures to support the Southampton Clean Air Zone (CAZ), three years ahead of the mandatory requirement to introduce the CAZ in 2019/20. This highlights how seriously the council are taking the issue and the associated health implications.

DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) published the UK Air Quality Plan in December 2015. This identified Southampton as one of five cities which will be required to implement penalty charges for the most polluting HGVs, buses and taxis when the mandatory zone comes in to force in 2019.

The government has allocated funding to support those local authorities affected. Southampton City Council is working closely with DEFRA to develop the framework and Southampton’s own implementation plan. The council is currently engaged in procuring a feasibility study that will assist in designing how the penalty charging system will operate.

Part of the council’s CAZ plan includes additional actions to complement and support the penalty charging. These include:

• A Clean Air Partnership with city businesses, organisations and neighbouring authorities that will identify and promote good practice and cooperation.
• A Clean Air Recognition Scheme to identify those organisations making a difference, provide technical support and advice and provide a measure to gauge their efforts.
• New advice and requirements to new developments to promote sustainable/active, uptake of low emission vehicles and improve the standard of non-road construction machinery.
• Creation of a dedicated Clean Air website informing vehicle users of the measures they can take to reduce their emissions by travel planning and vehicle choice.
• A Communications campaign to raise awareness about clean travel/vehicle choices amongst businesses and the public.
• Introduce the concept of a CAZ in the city, prior to any penalty charging, to help raise awareness amongst vehicle users of the measures that can be taken to improve the emissions they produce.
• Update the Quality Bus Partnership (QBP) to renew and establish emission standards amongst the bus fleet.
• Establish a Freight Quality Partnership (FQP) to promote and support a continuous improvement in emission standards in the CAZ.
• Promote businesses and organisations to assess their delivery practices and identify opportunities to introduce cleaner more effective practices including freight consolidation and ultra-low emission vehicles for final stage delivery.
• Investigate opportunities to improve the number of ultra-low emission taxis operating within the city and provide infrastructure to promote and incentivise the uptake of such vehicles.
• Identify a package of incentives for users of ultra-low emission vehicles and work in partnership with parking providers to establish standards for electric vehicle charging and a strategy for their introduction.
• Work with the port owners and operators to identify opportunities to introduce clean technologies amongst their non-road fleet and ships.
• Combining the work of the Sustainable Transport project and its MyJourney branding with the CAZ to provide clarity on transport options and emissions.

Although Clean Air Zones will be characterised by the introduction of penalty charges, DEFRA and Southampton City Council are keen to ensure that they are seen as one of a number of measures to improve air quality in cities.

The CAZ will be introduced in 2017, consisting of a programme of measures to promote and incentivise actions that will reduce emissions. Access restrictions and penalty charging would then be introduced as part of the mandatory CAZs in 2019, in line with the council’s legal duties.

'Decisive action'

Councillor Chris Hammond, Cabinet Minister for Transformation Projects at Southampton City Council, said: “Ongoing economic growth and development in the city has a direct effect on air quality.  We have made it our priority to reduce pollution levels and improve the quality of the air that we’re all breathing in Southampton.

“By taking decisive action, we can have a positive impact on health. That's why we'll be working with all key partner agencies in order to achieve continuous and sustainable improvements.

“We also need to get people from in and around the city thinking about making changes to the way they travel and adopting low-impact, sustainable choices. Everyone has a role to play in making improvements.

“This will help us to achieve positive and lasting change, which we will all benefit from.”

Find out more about the Clean Air Strategy

Southampton air quality scrutiny enquiry

See DEFRA's air quality plan for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the UK (2015)