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Call for funding to create clean air zone in Cambridge

A cross-party group of political leaders from across the country is calling for government support to tackle air pollution.

Cambridge City Council’s leader Cllr Lewis Herbert is one of the those supporting the letter.

Leader of the council Lewis Herbet. Picture: Keith Heppell. (16060768)
Leader of the council Lewis Herbet. Picture: Keith Heppell. (16060768)

Cambridge is one of 15 areas calling for the government to provide £1.5bn to support a network of 30 new and existing clean air zones, where the most polluting vehicles are fined.

A report released by UK100, a network of local leaders, shows that towns and cities could see an economic return of £6.5bn with support from the government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

If a share of this funding were to come to Cambridge, Cllr Herbert explains it would be used to update the fleet of buses coming into the city and change them to run on electricity rather than polluting diesel.

“Cities face a real health challenge and the only way we can really make a leap forward is if buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles are all changed to cleaner engines,” said Cllr Herbert. “The average amount that the 15 cities are pitching for is £50m.” He added it would help Cambridge “rapidly introduce electric charging across the city and implement a clean air zone and some money for buses to go electric and other vehicles to be changed so we could have last-mile delivery by electric vehicles”.

Vehicles causing pollution in Cambridge city (16060737)
Vehicles causing pollution in Cambridge city (16060737)

Council figures show that air pollution accounts for 106 deaths each year in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire. Buses contribute 34 per cent of the dangerous emissions in Cambridge while diesel cars add 28 per cent to air pollution.

A congestion charge has been proposed to help tackle the city’s air pollution problems alongside changes to the buses. This will be discussed by the Citizen’s Assembly before being presented to the GCP for a decision in December.

The Royal College of Physicians has assessed that the costs attributed to health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution are more than £20bn per year. The group are urging the new 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 4 September.

With air pollution contributing to up to 36,000 deaths a year, the 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 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 towns and cities.

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.

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