Call for greater curbs on vehicle pollution

Clean air zones must be introduced across dozens of English towns and cities to tackle vehicle pollution, a committee of MPs has urged.

Plans to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones currently extend to five of the country’s most polluted cities: Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton.

But the House of Commons’ Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee chair Neil Parish said: “Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.”

The committee also calls for the Government to allow councils greater flexibility in developing traffic management powers to tackle vehicle pollution both in and out of clean air zones.

Urgent action is needed, the committee says, to stop up to 50,000 people dying early each year from air pollution related illnesses. Its report published this week says that EU limits on nitrogen dioxide are currently exceeded in 28 out of 45 UK areas.

Most English cities will not, it adds, achieve air quality compliance until 2020. The five cities where clean air zones are planned will not achieve compliance until five years later, unless additional measures are introduced.

Environmental campaign group ClientEarth welcomed the call for more clean air zones. Its lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The committee is right to call for more clean air zones. We need a national network of these, alongside other measures that can be taken urgently. This is a public health crisis; it’s time for the Government to act in the interests of our health.”