Wednesday, September 16, 2020

News: Clean Air Zone plans pushed back


With a changing situation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, plans to address air pollution in the region are being delayed.

Rothbiz reported in 2017 that Rotherham (alongside Sheffield and Doncaster) is one of 38 English local authorities with one or more roads forecast persistently to exceed NO2 legal limits based on initial modelling. The local authorities have been charged with coming up with local plans for reducing air pollution or risk the Government imposing schemes to charge users of congested roads like the Parkway.

Rotherham and Sheffield Council have been working together on coming up with measures to deliver air quality improvements as quickly as possible. The Sheffield authority has now said that it further reviews of its proposed measures are required as the coronavirus pandemic has created a current situation that is "dramatically different" to the one in which the proposals were originally developed.

Proposals showed that Sheffield will need to introduce a Category C (CAZ C) charging zone in order to achieve legal compliance by 2021. Outlined in 2018, Rotherham's proposed measures included a 50mph speed limit on the Parkway, the introduction of modern buses and a HGV ban on the northbound Upper Wortley Road and Wortley Road towards the M1 junction.

Sheffield Council said in a statement: "Our current direction from Government to implement a Clean Air Zone was based on options we submitted in December 2018 which set out proposals for the most appropriate measures at that time. Further analysis and significant consultation on this plan were undertaken in summer 2019. However, the situation has changed significantly and unexpectedly due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and we have seen drop in air pollution of up to 33% in January to August of this year compared to the same period in 2019.

"We recognise that many businesses and jobs are under unprecedented stress arising from the economic impacts of the pandemic. At the same time, following on from the lockdown required to control the spread of the virus, there have been a number of changes to travel behaviour which has led to improvements in air quality. The current situation is dramatically different to the one in which our proposals were originally developed.

"In finalising our clean air plans we will review the possible impacts of COVID-19 on businesses, transport, and air quality. This will help us decide if the same action is needed, or if changes can be made to be successful in reducing air pollution for the long term.

"We will only make a decision on the final Clean Air Plans when we have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19. We are also confirming that it will include considering alternative approaches to charging non-compliant vehicles within the city centre as part of its contribution to the Clean Air Zone review.

"We will continue to work with Government’s Joint Air Quality Unit to develop the final plans and agree when it will be delivered."

The M1 remains a major cause of air pollution for Sheffield and Rotherham but responsibility falls to Highways England rather than the local authorities. Press reports indicate that 60mph speed limits may be introduced on the M1 in the Sheffield city region.

Images: Google Maps


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