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Concerns over York's air quality

York city council

12:11pm 24th April 2012

City of York Council will be asking residents, businesses and transport operators for their views on one of the greatest challenges currently faced by the city next week.

Based on national estimates between 94 and 163 people die prematurely in York each year due to the impacts of poor air quality.  This is approximately the same number of premature deaths due to alcohol abuse, obesity and road accidents together.

From Monday 23 April to Friday 18 May, residents and organisations in York could help influence the development of the LES and the subsequent new Air Quality Action Plan for the city (AQAP3) by completing a questionnaire - which will make York the UK's first low emission city.

Early this year Cabinet Members approved the draft Low Emission Strategy (LES) consultation (at a Cabinet meeting on 3rd April).

Some of the proposed methods in the LES include:

  • Minimising the volume of vehicles and ensuring only the lowest emission buses, lorries and taxis available can access the areas of the city with the poorest air quality
  • Promoting and incentivising the use of low emission vehicles, particularly those which run on electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), bio-methane  and /or make use of hybrid technologies
  • Investigating freight transhipment and electric vehicle deliveries for the city centre
  • Promoting York as a centre of excellence for low emission technologies, attracting new businesses and industries

Cllr Dave Merrett, Cabinet Member for City Strategy, said:

"I urge residents to have their say on the Low Emission Strategy. Poor air quality puts people's health at risk, creates an unpleasant environment for visitors to the city, may damage historic buildings and places an additional financial burden on local health service providers. It's crucial that we step up our efforts to address this issue."

The main air pollutant of concern in York is nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The pollutants nitrogen dioxide and particulates (PM) have been linked to lung diseases (asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema), heart conditions and cancer.   There are currently two Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in York (city centre, Fulford) with another to follow on Salisbury Terrace later this month).

The LES is due to be formally adopted in September 2012.  This will make York the UK's first low emission city, with the first overarching LES. The LES will be followed by a more detailed air quality action plan (AQAP3), stating exactly how, when and where the low emission measures will be delivered.
To access the questionnaire relating to the concept of the LES and/ or register interest in the development of AQAP 3 visit: www.york.gov.uk/consultation/  or www.york.gov.uk/airquality

Green Councillor Andy D'Agorne said

"The low emission strategy amounts to a few electric charging points and continued monitoring of growing pollution, which is already in breach of European and World Health Organisation health based limits."

"None of the main political parties is prepared to admit that the only effective measure to tackle this life shortening effect is to cut traffic levels.

"Since 2006 NO2 pollution has got steadily worse in York because council reports wrongly suggested that newer engines would remove the problem with time.

"All the 'quick fix' solutions have now been exhausted, major highway schemes are unaffordable as well as unsustainable, so cutting traffic levels has to be a key objective.

"Individual and collective action through schools and workplaces, by cutting car use through car sharing, increasing cycling, walking and public transport has the potential to make more rapid change than even dozens of electric cars in new developments yet to be built.

"If you feel you have no option than to use the car, you can at least switch off the engine while waiting at red lights (and save fuel too!)."

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