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Sheffield City Council reacts angrily to Government’s air quality announcement

26 July 2017

Sheffield City Council has today reacted angrily to the Government’s Clean Air Strategy, calling it “woefully inadequate.” The authority has said it is questionable whether the strategy announced today meets the Government’s legal duties, and contains a lack of real action in tackling this huge problem.

The Government revealed this morning that sales of all diesel and petrol vehicles will be scrapped by 2040 and that money may be made available to help councils tackle emissions from diesel vehicles.

However, the Government’s strategy does not include any coherent plans for areas with high pollution, nor are there plans for any scrappage scheme for some of the worst polluting vehicles. There is also an absence of the infrastructure investment at the scale that is needed to improve dangerous air.

Councillor Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Transport and Sustainability, has called on the Government for a clearer plan and greater action. He said: “Air pollution is a public health emergency, causing around 40,000 deaths per year, with around 500 of those in Sheffield. The first duty of any Government is to protect its citizens from harm. This Government is obviously failing in that role and unfairly passing the buck on to local councils, whilst cutting the money we need to address pollution problems.

“I’m highly sceptical that the Government’s announcement today even meets their legal duties on air quality, and their response has been woefully inadequate.

“Whilst I welcome any financial support that can help us to make faster improvements, particularly to improve our bus fleet, today’s announcements are especially disappointing given that last week the Government broke its promise on the electrification of Midland Mainline, which would have made a big difference to pollution.

“In Sheffield we have never been afraid to take radical action to improve air quality and public health. We have a very clear vision for a green and sustainable future – as seen through our Air Aware campaign in schools and recent consultation on introducing idling fines. I also want to look into a scheme of Air Quality Community Champions for Sheffield in the near future.

“So whilst I am pleased the Government seem to be waking up to the scale of the problem, today’s announcement is entirely lacking in action, funding and leadership. Sheffield City Council will continue to do everything in its power to tackle air pollution despite today’s disappointments.”

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health at Sheffield City Council, added: “Air quality is a massive risk to our future health and we need to tackle it together, smartly, effectively and with financial support. It is a great shame that the Government’s approach is to localise the response to an undoubted national problem.

“We take our responsibility seriously in this area and look forward to stronger action from national Government. We are disappointed that the Government seems to have ignored the evidence on what interventions would have greatest impact.”

The council launched Sheffield’s Green Commitment last year and has now published a sustainability vision, which includes improving air quality across the city.

Air Aware

The council’s DEFRA funded Air Aware campaign focuses on how what we do makes a difference and the ways to reduce air pollution caused by road traffic – from walking or cycling more, driving less, switching to less polluting vehicles such as petrol, petrol hybrid, electric or hydrogen when you next replace your vehicle.
It promotes ways to protect yourself from air pollution by walking away from heavy traffic areas and walking and cycling instead of sitting in a car – air pollution levels are higher inside your car than out.