ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have hit out at Coventry council’s drastic plans to reduce toxic air pollution in line with government requirements.
As we reported, the wide-ranging plan including traffic restrictions and closures on main roads follows Coventry being named as one of 22 towns and cities within the UK where Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels are forecast to exceed legal limits by next year.
The government is demanding the city brings its air quality within safe limits as quickly as possible or it could enforce a ‘clean air zone’ – where polluting vehicles are charged for access to certain areas of the city.
But environmental campaigners and those against the council’s housebuilding on the green belt have claimed the council’s Local Air Quality Action Plan will not tackle air pollution in the long run.
The council’s detailed plan includes proposals to introduce 100 clean air buses, an update to the taxi fleet and road infrastructure – including cycle lanes.
Coundon Road would be closed at the level crossing, and there would be peak-time traffic restrictions in Holyhead Road, and capacity improvements at ring road junction seven would also tackle congestion.
A council officer’s report states: “A comprehensive traffic data collection programme was undertaken to provide a robust evidence base of the current volume and composition of traffic in the city.”
Campaigner Peter Maddock said: “The action plan does set out to address some of the issues that will need to be tackled in the longer term.
“Its baseline is a comprehensive modelling of current traffic flows and therefore ignores the future additional traffic flows that will come from 25,000 extra houses in Coventry and another seven or 8,000 on our boundaries in Finham, Westwood Heath and Burton Green.
“It also fails to model the heavy goods vehicles additional traffic from the employment proposals in the local plan.
“The action plan fails to quantify the effects on people’s health such as respiration among children and higher than normal dementia rates.
“The document does not set out how the council will monitor NO2 or particulates, I have to question this.
“The council is bringing forward major developments well in advance of any solutions to air pollution, the situation will inevitably get worse.
“The Coundon Road proposal is a typical knee jerk reaction to a big problem, when you have no real solution.
“It would just push the problem towards the already polluted Holyhead Road.”
Green councillor Keith Kondaker said: “There needs to be carrots as well as sticks.
“Reducing bus fares would be a quick win and charging only on the return leg should be considered for routes with high pollution.”
Both referred to the significant number of early deaths caused by toxic air in the city.
A cabinet meeting on Tuesday (February 12) is set to approve submitting the plan to government.
The council will seek around £80million from the government’s Clean Air Fund and Implementation Plan fund to introduce the measures over a 10-year period.
Cabinet member responsible for jobs and regeneration Coun Jim O’Boyle said: “From the outset, as a result of a knee jerk reaction from the government following case brought by Client Earth, we’ve been asked to put this plan together based on what we know with the aim of cutting NO2 in the shortest possible time.
“Officers have taken into account likely developments. They are also very aware that diesel vehicles are the main culprits of roadside air pollution and the use of new and evolving technology such as autonomous vehicles (CAV), electric battery power and Vehicle Light Rail (VLR) are all likely to expand rapidly in the coming years.
“Many other projects are gathering pace including: to support electric cars, taxis and buses; schemes are already underway on charge points; the taxi try before you buy project; bus retrofit; and the electric buses funding just secured.
“We have also taken on board housing and employment growth, and it’s important to say that we will be measuring, and monitoring air quality.
“Young people have a right to expect towns and cities to be doing something to tackle air pollution, and that’s exactly what we will be aiming to do.
“There will clearly be consultation on the traffic management schemes that are proposed as part of the plan. These schemes will aim to manage traffic flows on this approach to the city centre with the aim of reducing traffic flows on Holyhead Road – not diverting it from one location to another.
“Reducing the amount of traffic that feeds onto Holyhead Road via the lights at Barras Lane would underpin this approach.”
“I’d also like to stress that we have no intention of introducing a clean air zone. We want projects that will leave a long lasting legacy for the city with new technology use at its forefront.”