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Proposals shaping up to improve air quality in city

Published Tuesday, 05 February 2019

Coventry Councillors will be asked to back plans that will help to tackle air pollution in Coventry, as towns and cities across the country try to address Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution.

The local authority has been working with the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit to agree an Action Plan to reduce NO2 levels within the city and subject to Cabinet approval, the Council will submit its Outline Business Case for this plan to JAQU on 12th February. Coventry is one of 27 towns and cities in the UK where NO2 levels are forecast to exceed legal limits by 2020.

Evidence gathered as part of the plan development indicates that older diesel vehicles contribute to approximately half of the emitted Nitrogen Dioxide in Coventry.

An extended period of time has been spent to develop a case for Coventry’s approach. Officers have especially been looking at potential solutions in specific areas of the city: Holyhead Road (between the Ring Road and the Alvis Retail Park) and Walsgrave Road (along Ball Hill) have particular issues with NO2 pollution.  £2 million has already been secured to help the Council introduce early measures to address the issues in the Walsgrave corridor, but the new Action Plan is intended to tackle NO2 levels in other areas of the city.

The action plan will be discussed by members on Tuesday 12 February.

Residents and businesses in Coventry will have the opportunity to view the Local Air Quality Action Plan from 18 February until 31 March, subject to Cabinet approval.

Coventry Councillors have repeatedly stated that they have no intention of introducing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). Other measures are being identified in the plan to make an impact on air pollution in the shortest time possible.

Health experts highlight the harmful impact of air pollution; and that it affects more those who live in deprived areas, those who live, learn or work near busy roads, and those who are more vulnerable because of their age or existing medical conditions.

A series of initiatives are being identified, and of those already being rolled out is a project to support the black cab trade to upgrade their vehicles to the new, Coventry built electric taxis. So far 53 drivers have signed up to try the electric taxis, and 10 have to date gone ahead and ordered a new electric taxi to operate within the city. 

An existing package of measures along the A4600 corridor amounting to £2m are also underway including: plans for infrastructure improvements at Ball Hill; the introduction of new technology to improve traffic management along the Walsgrave Road; and engagement with local schools, businesses and communities to promote active and sustainable travel for local journeys, taking car trips off the road. 

The introduction of electric charging points, retrofitting 100 buses and a bid in place with National Express and Transport for West Midlands to fund the purchase of 10 electric buses are also part of plans. 

Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, added: “This is an important opportunity to make use of the innovative technology being developed in this city. Air pollution is a long standing problem and there is an opportunity to address this in a creative way.

“At the same time myself and colleagues are clear about our opposition to any clean air zone. Air quality has a greater impact on people in more deprived areas and we should mitigate the effects on them.”

Crucially the work, in addition to those put forward in this wider plan, aims to help improve the health of residents in Coventry, and particularly the very old, the very young and those with chronic health conditions.

Cllr Kamran Caan, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Sport, said: “A key part of the final strategy is to reduce roadside NO2 in the city in ‘the shortest possible time’. We need to work quickly but following the right steps and asking the right questions. We all want what’s best for the health of Coventry residents, both now and into the future.

“We have been gathering a lot of information so we know what improvements we need to make, and where there are locations with a greater problem, and what interventions could have a positive impact on air quality quickly. There are lots of things that people can also do, in particular to think about how they travel, and whether they can leave the car at home, even just one day a week.”

Cllr Patricia Hetherton, Cabinet Member for City Services, said that it is important to address traffic use, and the highways infrastructure alongside encouraging behavioural change. She also said that applying the latest technological innovations would be crucial.

She added: “We need cleaner air as soon as possible and have already started to make positive changes.

“We are investing in technology to smooth the flow of traffic to reduce emissions along Walsgrave Road and undertaking an intensive programme of travel planning for schools, residents and businesses to promote sustainable travel.

“We also need to discuss road schemes that will improve particular concerns we have with Holyhead Road and Walsgrave Road. NO2 emissions are also high along Binley Road and London Road.

“We’ll be bringing road plans for discussion where the infrastructure will need to change.”

The outline plan included proposals like closing the rail level crossing in Coundon; and an improvement scheme in Spon End to improve traffic flow and help alleviate congestion on the Holyhead Road.

The Local Air Quality Action Plan will be shared for people to view from 18 February and run until 31 March if it receives Cabinet approval. 

Information will be available online, and drop in information sessions will be held on at Central Library on:

  • Wednesday 27 February – 12noon to 2pm
  • Thursday 28 February – 4.30pm – 6.45pm
  • Saturday 2 March – 10am to 12noon

At public and stakeholder drop-in sessions people will be provided with an update of what’s happened so far to address air pollution, and to offer an opportunity to discuss the relative merits of possible interventions, and understand any barriers to implementation.

A final air quality plan will be produced in 2019.

What is in the Air Quality Action Plan?

  1. Technology – city wide upgrade of traffic signals technology, variable message signs and real-time air quality monitoring all enabling dynamic management of traffic within the city;
  2. Engagement – city-wide programme of travel planning with schools and colleges, major employers, and local communities
  3. Fleet- working with taxi businesses, public transport operators and businesses operating major fleets. Upgrading commercial vehicles to meet high standards in terms of low or zero emissions.
  4. Cycling – encouraging a greater uptake of cycling; focusing on improving cycle routes on four key corridors – between the city centre and Coundon, Binley and the Hospital, Whitley and University of Warwick.
  5. Highways – a range of highway improvements to facilitate the dynamic management of traffic, especially on the routes into the city from the west

This includes:

  • removing traffic lights at Holyhead and Barras Lane to reduce queuing traffic on Holyhead Road,
  • closure of the Coundon rail level crossing to reduce the amount of traffic entering Holyhead Road via Coundon Road / Barras Lane,
  • peak time restrictions on Holyhead Road between the railway bridge and the ring road junction (inbound closure in the am peak and outbound pm peak) to reduce traffic flows,
  • HGV ban on Holyhead Road between the railway bridge and the Ring Road,
  • Spon End improvement scheme to increase capacity and improve routes for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Improvements to Ring Road Junction 7 to increase capacity and improve routes to the city centre for pedestrians and cyclists.

These proposals will be available for people to view on the Air Quality pages from 18 February, and there will be drop-in sessions at which people can discuss the action plan with Council staff held during February and early March – details of these will be published on-line.

People who are interested in planning their journey can visit the Active Travel pages.

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