There is still time to submit your comments on the Council’s proposals to tackle poor air quality. The deadline is 17th May 2019.
It can be quite difficult to understand what the issues are, so we have put together some thoughts after looking at the consultation information.
What is the issue?
Councils have a responsibility to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NO2) where it exceeds legal limits. The legal limit is set at 40µg/m³ average over 12 months and a number of places in the city and surrounding areas have been found to breach this.
If no action is taken the Government will impose a charging clean air zone in an attempt to reduce emissions. The Council has put forward various alternatives that it hopes will achieve reductions in levels of NO2 without the Government forcing a solution on the city.
It is worth remembering that there is no safe level of exposure to air pollution, so just getting below the legal limit doesn’t remove all risks to health.
Air quality in Heaton
We have written about the levels of NO2 measured in Heaton previously. For the month of November 2018, the Coast Road had an average value of 50.47µg/m³.
The Coast Road is one on the areas the Government has stipulated NO2 levels must be reduced.
Heaton Road and Chillingham Road had readings around 28µg/m³ measured in the same month.
More recently the average reading on NO2 for March 2019 taken by a sensor at the junction of Heaton Road and the Coast Road is 72.75µg/m³.
The graph below showing how NO2 didn’t dip below the legal average limit on any day over the whole month at this location.
At the time of writing the full data for April isn’t available but looking at the week of April 7th – 13th at the same location the picture is no better.
|Day – April 2019||Reading – NO2(µg/m³)|
What are the proposed solutions?
You can read full details of the proposals put forward by the Council on the consultation website at https://www.breathe-cleanair.com
Briefly, the main options put forward are:
Charging Clean Air Zone – this is an area that people in certain types of vehicle will be charged to enter. The proposals don’t include a CAZ covering any of the residential areas of Heaton but the Coast Road – from Battle Hill to the city centre – would be covered. To enter the zone without paying a car would need to meet Euro 6 standard for diesel and Euro 4 standard for petrol. The same would apply for vans, HGVs and buses.
The map below, from the Council shows the possible boundaries of the clean air zone.
You can see what standard your vehicle is using this link.
A low emission zone – covering the city centre and tolls on the bridges crossing the Tyne in the city centre. Certain vehicles would be banned from a low emission zone (with fines levied against those people breaking the law) while the bridge tolls would apply to all vehicles except buses, taxis and some ultra-low emission vehicles. Private cars are not affected by the low emission zone, only the tolls.
There are a number of smaller proposals for goods vehicles and financial support detailed on the website.
How might this affect Heaton?
Heaton isn’t directly covered by the CAZ or low emission zone but the proposed CAZ would cover the Coast Road past Heaton.
However, it’s important that any measures that improve air quality on the Coast Road don’t result in a deterioration of the air quality elsewhere.
Things to consider include:
- Would a CAZ improve the air quality in Heaton as well as the area specifically covered by the zone?
- Will charging buses cause those people currently travelling in a less harmful way to be penalised unfairly with higher ticket costs?
- By charging only some vehicles there’s a chance that more polluting vehicles are discouraged from using the road. This could reduce pollution and traffic levels. If traffic levels reduce, will the space be taken up by other vehicles that are currently discouraged due to traffic levels?
- Will a higher number of cleaner vehicles offset any reductions gained from removing older vehicles?
- Will a charge on the Coast Road cause more people to use roads through Heaton or use Heaton as a park and ride to avoid paying to enter the city centre, or will it bring about an overall reduction in vehicle movements?
- Should the CAZ cover Heaton or parts of the area to guard against any unforeseen side effects?
Thinking about bridge tolls and a low emission zone, many of the same points apply. In addition:
- Would these proposals improve or harm air quality in Heaton?
- Would having tolls on the bridges that are the same as the Tyne Tunnel make the tunnel seem like a more attractive options for people heading to coastal areas south of the river? If so, would this lead to even higher levels of traffic and emissions on the Coast Road?
- Could tolls see an overall reduction in traffic, reducing levels of pollution across the city?
- As tolls would be levied on all vehicles except buses, are they a fairer way of bringing about a reduction in pollution?
- Would the suggested schemes encourage more use of less polluting forms of transport?
Make your voice heard
It’s important that anybody that would like to see air quality improved in Heaton, and across the city, replies to the consultation so that all views are heard.
You can submit your views on the consultation website.
As the readings of air quality in locations in Heaton show, something needs to be done before the health of local people starts to suffer.