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Southampton City Council Clean Air Zone consultation response

October 25, 2018 9:25 AM
By Southampton Liberal Democrats

The Southampton City Council (SCC) Plans for a Class B Clean Air Zone are rather timid. As currently presented, they are little more than a 'minimum viable product', which seeks only to meet basic legal requirements, and little more. This despite many leading health and research organisations stating that there are no safe limits for air pollution.

As the aim is simply to do just enough to meet the basic legal requirements, how confident can we as residents of Southampton be of SCC delivering real and significant improvements to air quality?

We are also concerned that:

Southampton Liberal Democrats believe that greater consideration should have been given to Class C and D Clean Air Zones and that it was wrong to exclude these from the consultation.

As SCC's own air quality strategy states 34.1% of air pollution in the city comes from HGVs and 23.9% comes from cars. While it is right to ensure that HGVs' contribution to pollution is reduced, car use in Southampton will also have to decrease to improve air quality. Other cities, Birmingham for example, have decided that charging cars is the right way to tackle air pollution.

However, given the inadequacy of alternatives to car use in Southampton, we recognise that charging car users would be unfair. We need rapid and more effective measures to encourage the use of more sustainable forms of transport: walking, cycling, buses and trains. SCC's draft vision for transport appears (despite its verbosity) to be laudable, but unless rapid measures are taken to incentivise more sustainable forms of transport and reduce car use then a Class B Clean Air Zone is unlikely to meet its targets.

Improving the environment must be a collective endeavour involving all sections of the community: residents, businesses and local government. SCC however must lead the way and not be timid in seeking to improve the quality of citizens' lives. While we support the introduction of a Class B Clean Air Zone, its impact is likely to only go so far in improving air quality, and as such we believe that additional measures are required.

We agree with the principle of charging the most polluting vehicles and if Southampton Liberal Democrats were running SCC we would ringfence the income from the charges envisaged for the implementation of sustainable transport policies and infrastructure. We trust that Labour-controlled SCC will do the same.

Furthermore, SCC has to meet obligations in respect of climate change and a zero-carbon future. If SCC were serious about improving air quality and doing our share to mitigate climate change it would propose more far-reaching measures. There is considerable overlap in the policies required to improve air quality and combat climate change.

It is vital that SCC links the issue of air quality to its wider transport strategy and, in addition, should work closely with neighbouring authorities to facilitate the establishment of Park and Ride sites and the reopening of the Waterside railway line. These projects need to be progressed rapidly to encourage a shift in favour of public transport use.

The port of Southampton is overlooked in the consultation, but it is vital that the port makes good on its undertaking to set up a port plug in for cruise ships as soon as possible. The residents of Bargate, Freemantle, Millbrook and Redbridge, in particular, suffer from the additional air pollution generated by the port. It is important that more freight and cargo is transported by rail, and we support moves to enhance rail capacity. If local green space is lost other local brownfield sites should be converted to green space to compensate.