Limbo dancing under the legal limit

We gave a short speech at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Management meeting today on the proposed Clean Air Zone:

Thank you, Chair, for giving me the opportunity to speak to the Committee. Last year, we responded to the consultation on the proposed Clean Air Zone by saying that there was too much uncertainty in the modelling. The modelling has since been re-run and we still see uncertainty. We have submitted a report to this Committee, written by Dr Claire Holman, who is an air quality consultant. Her analysis suggests that the Council is still running the risk of failing one of Justice Garnham’s three tests, as established during the cases brought by ClientEarth – that the hoped-for improvement in air quality should be likely, not just possible.

Today you are looking at a proposal which is an attempt at limbo-dancing under the legal limit for nitrogen dioxide, in order to avoid a fine. This proposal is asking you to put your trust in data produced using certain assumptions. One of these is that diesel cars will be as clean in real life as in laboratory tests.  Another is to accept the idea that the limited options proposed by the City Council will effect lasting change and protect our health.

As you know 40ug/m3 of nitrogen dioxide is the legal limit. Unfortunately it is not a safe limit. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) last year advised the Government that there is, indeed, no safe limit for exposure to nitrogen dioxide.

We recognise that the City Council has been put in this position by the Government’s attempt to comply with the legal limit. The pressure to act has resulted in an inadequate and sadly underfunded instruction from the Minister.

When you look closely at the points of exceedance on the map of Southampton, it becomes obvious that it is not sufficient to work solely within the City boundary. 50,000 people leave the city each day for work and 50,000 come in to Southampton to work. One million containers arrive in the city each year. Over three million cruise and ferry passengers come here each year. Air pollution has no boundaries and many people who live along the city boundary and may be in a neighbouring authority are receiving no consideration at all. This is because the M27 and M271, the most polluted locations, are under the management of Highways England. A major failing in this proposal is that there is no clear plan for working with Highways England, who have a £100m Air Quality fund, and who could benefit the city enormously if they could think of solutions for the roads they manage.

We will be writing to our local MPs to ask them to raise a Parliamentary Question to find out what Highways England are doing to ensure compliance along the motorways, as this is so important for the City.

Ironically, the proposed Class B Clean Air Zone would, according to the Council’s own analysis, have helped to reduce the pollution problems on the surrounding motorways and ultimately benefitted us all by offering more of a chance of delivering a healthier environment. The cost-benefit analysis shows the net benefit of implementing a Class B Clean Air Zone is in excess of £15m over the period 2020 to 2030 and also avoids the deliverability risks of non-charging options. Why was this dismissed during the decision-making process?

The list of actions proposed by the City Council are acknowledged in their report to have a negligible effect on air quality. We would have wished for more imaginative and effective ways of intervening than those presented. We strongly urge this Committee to reconsider the whole proposal and suggest measures which would have more impact on air quality in the City be added. It will be 2021 before we know if these limited proposals have had any effect on air quality in Southampton and our children and grandchildren are relying on us to take wise decisions.

We have further outstanding questions about the modelling used and have asked the relevant authorities for further information. We hope to receive this in the next few days. We will be happy to share this with you.

Thank you.

Liz Batten, Mandi Bissett, Colin MacQueen

Clean Air Southampton

Southampton City Council’s Proposed Clean Air Zone

Clean Air Southampton’s response to the Proposed Clean Air Zone

Following the public consultation on the Clean Air Zone last summer, Southampton City Council has decided against introducing a charging zone, and has now proposed other measures aimed at achieving the legal limit for Nitrogen Dioxide in the city. The council’s updated documentation has been published here, ahead of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee meeting later today (Wednesday 16th January, 5.30pm).

We commissioned an expert to review these updated reports and her analysis is available here.

We have submitted this analysis together with the following summary to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee. Our request to give a short spoken submission to the Committee has also been approved.

1. The third of Lord Garnham’s tests (as established in the second case brought by ClientEarth) may not be met with a non-charging Clean Air Zone. His three tests are: (a) as soon as possible (b) by the quickest route possible and (c) by a means that make that outcome likely. The City Council appears not to have fully considered the issue of “likely, not just possible” because there are several locations where exceedance remains a possibility, given the uncertainty in the modelling.
2. There are seven points on the periphery of the city boundary (along the M27 and M271) which will remain in exceedance in 2020 and which are the responsibility of Highways England. A Class B Clean Air Zone would have had a significant impact on the concentrations along the motorways as well as along Southampton City Council roads. There is no information in the public domain about Highways England’s plans for meeting the limit value in these locations. We shall be approaching local MPs to ask if one of them is willing to ask a Parliamentary Question to find out what Highways England are doing to ensure compliance along the motorways, as this is so important for the City.
3. The cost-benefit analysis shows the net benefits of implementing a Class B Clean Air Zone appear to be in excess of £15m over the period 2020 to 2030 and also avoids the deliverability risks of non-charging options. Why was this dismissed during the decision-making process?

The Cabinet will be meeting on 22nd January at 10am in the Guildhall to consider the updated proposal for the Clean Air Zone.

Clean Air Zone consultation for Southampton

DEFRA put out a call for responses to their consultation on Clean Air Zones and Southampton was one of the five cities included in the proposals. So, we organised a workshop in November, 2016 to bring together local experts – academics, politicians, councillors and concerned groups and individuals – and set to work to produce our list of ideas.

Southampton has such an array of potential sources of air pollution, it was a complex meeting to organise, and we did it very successfully. Here is our response, and thanks very much to all the people who helped us put it together.

Thanks also to Steve Guppy, Scientific Officer with Southampton City Council for the map of what Southampton’s Clean Air Zone might look like:

Steve Guppy - Clean Air Zone map.jpeg.001

This is just the beginning of the story, as the Government was taken to the High Court by ClientEarth last October, and told to re-visit their plans for Clean Air Zones. They have until April 2017 to re-issue their proposals and until July 2017 to enact them. The likely outcome of this revision will be the inclusion of all 37 towns and cities that are currently in breach of EU regulations on air quality. It is also possible that private cars may be included in the classes of vehicles to be regulated within the Clean Air Zones.