We all need to pull together to improve air quality across the district. That’s the message from Canterbury City Council this week as it asks its Policy and Resources Committee to approve the seeking of people’s views on its comprehensive draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP).
The plea comes as the city council announces a variation of the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) affecting seven of Canterbury’s city centre roads because it is taking an ultra-cautious approach.
The roads are the Rheims Way, a very small section of London Road close to the Rheims Way, a small section of Chaucer Road, a small section of Military Road, a small section of St George’s Place, a very small section of Lower Chantry Lane and a small section of Old Dover Road.
A new AQMA will be created in Herne at the mini roundabout junction of the A291 and School Lane.
An AQMA has to be declared when, as a result of evidence gathered by the council, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels exceed an annual average of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
A better understanding of where monitoring should be carried out has led to new evidence that has brought about the need to vary the AQMA.
The council is also extending its AQMA to include areas where NO2 levels touch an average of 36 microgrammes per cubic metre to ensure a 10% buffer.
The council has been working with the country’s leading independent experts Bureau Veritas.
The Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has a national network of monitoring stations to check background air quality in order to comply with EU legislation.
The city council operates a background monitoring station for this network near the Chaucer School.
The highly-publicised list of the 45 worst-performing cities in relation to compliance with the EU directive is based on this monitoring and national modelling of pollution mapping.
Canterbury is not one of the cities predicted to exceed the EU limit values for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in accordance with the directive nor is it predicted to do so by 2025.
Leader of Canterbury City Council Cllr Simon Cook said: “We take the need to improve air quality in some areas of the district extremely seriously and our draft Air Quality Action Plan is a statement of our intent to achieve this.
“While we will do all we can as an organisation to improve air quality, the district needs to come together to make a positive impact.
“Individuals can make a massive difference with the choices they make alongside Kent County Council which has responsibility for transport and as the highways authority, other public sector bodies, businesses, the higher and further education sector, schools, public transport providers and the NHS. This list is not an exhaustive one.
“We want to hear people’s ideas and possible solutions to the air quality problem. The more people we can get involved, the more effective our final plan will be.”
The draft action plan covers five broad themes – public health, transport, planning and infrastructure, awareness and education and our strategic approach.
In the sphere of public health, we propose to:
- Review the city council’s staff travel plan to cut car journeys
- Work with KCC to promote car sharing, the new park and pedal scheme and safe cycling
- Establish a Canterbury Car Club
- Adopt district-wide anti-idling enforcement powers and enforce at coach parks, on-street parking bays, taxi ranks and at level crossings. We need to raise awareness of the problems caused by leaving your engine running
- Encourage bus companies to introduce more environmentally-friendly buses
- Work with KCC and the bus companies to review bus timetables and routes
- Continue negotiations over a potential cycle hire scheme for Canterbury
- Work with venues across the district to restrict the use of solid-fuel generators
- Continue to enforce industrial pollution controls
In the area of transport, we propose to:
- Use the fee structure to encourage taxi drivers and their firms to use low-emission vehicles
- Work with freight companies to encourage them to use the right routes around the city and promote better driving which is shown to reduce emissions
- Develop a strong partnership with the bus companies to establish a framework for improving the bus network and fleet
- Review the council’s park and ride bus contract to ensure use of low-emission buses
- Investigate the feasibility of running park and ride buses to and from railway stations
- Investigate ways of incentivising drivers to use park and ride car parks
- Promote the clean-air message on roadside variable message signs on the major routes into Canterbury
When it comes to planning and infrastructure, we propose to:
- Increase capacity at the New Dover Road, Sturry Road and Wincheap park and ride sites
- Include electric charging points at strategic development sites
- Upgrade electric charging points in Sturry Road and New Dover Road park and ride sites and include them at the redeveloped Wincheap park and ride
- Ensure all city council car parks have electric charging points where suitable, promote electric charging points at supermarkets and universities, install charging points at taxi ranks and on-street points where possible
- Improve a number of streets in Canterbury city centre to encourage people to walk
- Improve a number of cycle routes – Farleigh Road to Barton Mill, Thanington to Wincheap and along the new link road, A257 to Chaucer Road
- Work with developers and KCC to create a host of new cycle routes including Bridge to Canterbury and Hersden to Sturry
- Work with KCC to create a network of bus lanes
- Work with developers and Kent County Council to deliver the A2 off-slip at Wincheap, the Wincheap contraflow, a new A2 interchange at Bridge, the A28 to A257 relief road through Howe Barracks and improved intelligent traffic management around the ring road
- Work with Network Rail to minimise delays at level crossings
- Support improvement in the district’s IT infrastructure to encourage more home working
As part of our approach to publicising the issues and educating the public, we propose to:
- Roll out a publicity and marketing campaign highlighting the issues in the action plan
- Link with national initiatives to raise awareness of pollution where possible
- Pilot a scheme at a number of schools to raise awareness of the issue of idling when parents drop off their children with a view to rolling this out throughout the district
- Create a marketing campaign encouraging owners of wood-burning stoves to use them correctly
In terms of our strategic approach, we propose to:
- Make sure permits and licences issued by the council for markets, events and businesses that trade on council land or use council properties restrict the use of generators powered by diesel petrol or solid fuel
- Make air quality a key component of our procurement process especially when buying vehicles and plant
- Strengthen our links to other stakeholders and agencies to realise the full benefits of partnership working and funding opportunities
- Work with neighbouring authorities on a Kent-wide low emission strategy
- Work with the University of Kent on an air quality monitoring project and one on anti-idling signs.
Since the last action plan was launched, the city council has:
- Improved the park and ride service
- Worked with KCC to ensure a new slip road onto the Dover-bound A2 at Wincheap
- Provided new and improved cycle routes including Stour Valley Way, the Viking Coastal Trail and the Crab and Winkle Line.
- Adopted the Transport Strategy and Air Quality Policy, which form part of the Local Plan and put a strong emphasis on reducing vehicle traffic and the promotion of walking and cycling
- Worked with the KM Charity Team and the KM Media Group to promote the Walk to School campaign
- Considered mitigation measures to reduce air pollution for all new developments with reference to the Kent and Medway Air Quality Partnership guidance for developments which may have an impact on the AQMA
- Digitised a lot of the council’s work to allow staff to work from home or remotely to reduce the number of times they drive into the office
- Our flexible working policy allows staff to travel to and from work outside peak times
- We have established a Sustainable Transport Forum to act as a sounding board