Plans started by Labour in 2014 to introduce a clean air zone for buses in the centre of York will not be implemented by the end of the current Coalition administration in May next year, it has been confirmed.
Poor air quality in parts of the city is recognised as exacerbating some existing health conditions as well as contributing to between 80 and 160 premature deaths each year.
Labour approved a Low Emission Strategy in 2012 which a recent council report said has proved particularly effective at tackling emissions from service vehicles such as buses, taxis and HGVs. This contrasts with declining air quality between 2004 and 2010 under the Liberal Democrats, despite a number of air quality management areas (AQMAs) being in place.
The same report to the Executive Member (Coun. Andrew Waller) for Environment Decision Session earlier this month highlighted the Executive’s January decision to not implement the clean air zone until 2020.
Labour’s environment spokesperson, Coun. Danny Myers said:
“The Low Emission Strategy devised back in 2012 delivered a step change in how the council approached reducing harmful emissions and improving air quality, but progress under the current ruling Coalition has been pedestrian at best. We are looking at six years to introduce the clean air zone, and for the much more straight forward anti-idling measures, it will have taken at least four years, assuming it is not delayed.
“These measures are vital if the council is to push a reduction in harmful emissions from higher polluting vehicles”.
Council officers say the ownership of bus stops could be a potential issue in how the signage for anti-idling is installed. It is hoped this won’t lead to delays to this headline measure within the council’s third Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP3).
And on HGVs, Coun. Myers says no progress has been made on either a transhipment centre to reduce HGVs from the city centre or on a plan to work with key retailers on deliveries prior to a transhipment centre being approved.
The report states that the latter objective is on hold due to lack of staff to develop it.
“A plan to reduce bus emissions is essential, albeit not coming soon enough” added Coun. Myers “but there’s an imbalance with HGVs not prioritised by the council’s Lib Dem-Tory Coalition and yet it is vital piece in the jigsaw in reducing emissions that are seriously harmful to people’s health.
“Unfortunately it seems unlikely this will change in the last few months of this council so it must be a priority for any incoming administration”.