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Clean air action plan to save lives

Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road
Air pollution from vehicle exhaust pipe on road

Push to improve air quality as councillors hear Cambridge is falling below standards.

Parts of Cambridge are not meeting national or European air quality standards, and the city’s massive growth is threatening to make matters worse.

In Cambridge, 5.8 per cent of premature deaths were attributed to particulate air pollution in 2010, which equates to 47 lives.

City councillors voted unanimously on Tuesday (March 13) to implement a new action plan that will aim to improve air quality, but the council’s environmental officers say many more people need to use public transport to ensure air quality improves.

City councillors agreed to:

■ Install rapid charge points to support an electric taxi fleet;

■ Extend core area schemes to limit city centre access to cars;

■ Explore a Workplace Parking Levy for employers with more than 300 employees;

■ Introduce last-mile delivery and click and collect points at Park & Rides; and

■ Introduce new by-laws to enforce anti-idling penalties.

“Non-emissions” pollution was also said to be a “significant” contributor to the city’s poor air quality, with domestic and commercial heating and the sprawling development at Cambridge Biomedical Campus also having an impact.

But transport is the main concern.

The city’s Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Tim Bick, said the plan could go further, but stressed that other bodies, such as the county council and Greater Cambridge Partnership, must be heavily relied upon to improve the situation.

He said: “It’s good that the council is doing what it can in terms of the taxi trade, and setting an example in terms of our own vehicles. A lot of this rests on other bodies, both public and general.

“To me, public transport is central to what this is about, yet it’s quite a subtle thing. We want more people using it but we want it to be a lot cleaner. It’s both the problem and the solution.

“We’ve seen in the last few years an upgrade in the bus fleet serving the city. This hasn’t led to the kind of change that we would have expected and it is quite concerning.”

This action plan replaces the previous action plan which ran from 2008, and outlines actions to be made between 2018-2023.

The GCP is now paying for a study to explore different options for tackling air pollution, including a clean air zone.

Councillor Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council said: “We’re committed to Cambridge and ensuring that Cambridge matches the highest levels of air quality in the country. We’re determined to take advantage of the latest technology and opportunities in national legislation to make this possible.”

“As our thriving city continues to grow, it’s essential that we tackle all the major sources of Cambridge’s air pollution. This research project is part of a raft of measures we’re undertaking to implement a Clean Air Zone in our city and improve the air we all breathe every day.”

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