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Public willing to take action on air pollution - but support is needed

air quality

A partnership approach involving the public, businesses, councils and government is needed to tackle harmful levels of air pollution and many people are already, or would be willing, to play their part.

But improvements to public transport and walking and cycling routes are needed before many people, who said they rely on their cars for essential journeys, would feel able to change their travel behaviour.

These are some of the independent findings from the air quality public consultation that took place over 11 weeks earlier this year in the North East.

The consultation attracted over 20,000 responses from individuals, businesses, community groups and voluntary organisations - the largest participation in a survey of its type in the UK to date.

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils were seeking views on proposals for measures to improve air quality, which were developed following a government legal direction demanding action.

The direction ordered councils to develop proposals that would bring pockets of excessive pollution levels to within legal limits in the shortest possible time. Councils had to consider the impact of a charging Clean Air Zone, and any alternative measures would need to be at least as effective.

As well as a potential charging Clean Air Zone, the Tyneside councils also consulted people on alternative proposals for a Low Emission Zone with tolls on city centre road bridges.

The consultation responses included over 50,000 comments - all of which have been read as part of the independent analysis - from people from across the North East and beyond.

A number of key themes repeatedly emerged and there was widespread awareness that air quality is a serious health concern and a recognition that action is required to tackle it.

Proposals to charge drivers to use certain routes or to prevent some vehicles entering certain zones prompted a great deal of debate with many raising concerns about the potential financial and economic impact on people and businesses and the risk of shifting traffic and pollution into other areas.

But the majority of respondents agreed with proposals to help people prepare for air quality measures, including financial support to help people switch to public transport or upgrade vehicles and exemptions or grace periods for certain drivers.

Councils are continuing to develop and reshape the proposals in response to these independent findings and taking into account the latest modelling data, which is currently being gathered.

Cllr Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said:

"We still have further work to do to determine the measures for dealing with this serious public health issue.

"It's clear from the consultation that people have strong views about what the priorities and major challenges are.

"The legal direction from government means that we have to take action but we know there are no easy answers to this issue. The extensive consultation feedback, together with the results of the latest testing and modelling, will be invaluable in helping us to identify the final option."

A revised legal direction from government earlier this month confirmed that the updated options would be submitted to Defra in August ahead of the final proposals in November and measures would be implemented from 2021.

A full copy of the independent analysis of the consultation feedback can be found at www.breathe-cleanair.com

air quality
17 July 2019

A partnership approach involving the public, businesses, councils and government is needed to tackle harmful levels of air pollution and many people are already, or would be willing, to play their part.

But improvements to public transport and walking and cycling routes are needed before many people, who said they rely on their cars for essential journeys, would feel able to change their travel behaviour.

These are some of the independent findings from the air quality public consultation that took place over 11 weeks earlier this year in the North East.

The consultation attracted over 20,000 responses from individuals, businesses, community groups and voluntary organisations - the largest participation in a survey of its type in the UK to date.

Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside councils were seeking views on proposals for measures to improve air quality, which were developed following a government legal direction demanding action.

The direction ordered councils to develop proposals that would bring pockets of excessive pollution levels to within legal limits in the shortest possible time. Councils had to consider the impact of a charging Clean Air Zone, and any alternative measures would need to be at least as effective.

As well as a potential charging Clean Air Zone, the Tyneside councils also consulted people on alternative proposals for a Low Emission Zone with tolls on city centre road bridges.

The consultation responses included over 50,000 comments - all of which have been read as part of the independent analysis - from people from across the North East and beyond.

A number of key themes repeatedly emerged and there was widespread awareness that air quality is a serious health concern and a recognition that action is required to tackle it.

Proposals to charge drivers to use certain routes or to prevent some vehicles entering certain zones prompted a great deal of debate with many raising concerns about the potential financial and economic impact on people and businesses and the risk of shifting traffic and pollution into other areas.

But the majority of respondents agreed with proposals to help people prepare for air quality measures, including financial support to help people switch to public transport or upgrade vehicles and exemptions or grace periods for certain drivers.

Councils are continuing to develop and reshape the proposals in response to these independent findings and taking into account the latest modelling data, which is currently being gathered.

Cllr Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead Council, said:

"We still have further work to do to determine the measures for dealing with this serious public health issue.

"It's clear from the consultation that people have strong views about what the priorities and major challenges are.

"The legal direction from government means that we have to take action but we know there are no easy answers to this issue. The extensive consultation feedback, together with the results of the latest testing and modelling, will be invaluable in helping us to identify the final option."

A revised legal direction from government earlier this month confirmed that the updated options would be submitted to Defra in August ahead of the final proposals in November and measures would be implemented from 2021.

A full copy of the independent analysis of the consultation feedback can be found at www.breathe-cleanair.com

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