Portsmouth City Council has finalised its response to the government's ministerial directive to impose air quality improvement measures in the city.
This week cabinet approved the plans that will be sent to government. These include a Class B charging Clean Air Zone in an area to the south west of the city and supporting measures that will not just help address the impact of those driving in the zone, but also look for further funding to address the wider issue of air pollution in Portsmouth.
The government modelling has shown that a Class B that charges buses, coaches, HGVs, taxis, private hire vehicles and some minibuses (less than a Euro VI, approximately 2015/16) to travel within and into the zone will deliver compliance with legal limits for nitrogen dioxide in the shortest possible time. This would meet the legal requirement imposed by the government on Portsmouth City Council.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of the Council, said: "Addressing the issue of climate change is a priority for the health and wellbeing of everyone in our city. However the government is forcing us down the route of a charging clean air zone and we do not believe this is the most suitable way to deal with air pollution for our city and many other cities in the UK. We have sent a letter that sets out how we could do this better but the government still continues to insist that a charging clean air zones are being imposed across the UK".
Portsmouth's air quality local plan will be given to an independent government panel to scrutinise and the DEFRA Minister will review their recommendations and impose the next steps the council must take to address the issue of air pollution. In the New Year there will be a 12 week consultation to refine the detail of the zone including timings of operation, and any potential for exemptions. Any proposed changes will need to be remodelled to make sure they do not adversely affect our compliance date. The zone would be implemented in 2021 with automatic vehicle number plate recognition cameras used to enforce the zone.
Cllr Dave Ashmore, the council's Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change, said: "Given the requirements by government, I am pleased Cabinet approved the approach as it minimises the potential negative impact on our city of a stricter zone. Although the government could still impose a higher class of zone that would include light goods vehicles. This would have an even worse impact on the economy of the city. Our plea to the government is that they seriously consider our requests for funding that will address the wider air pollution issue in our city by getting more people out of their cars and onto buses, as well as walking and cycling in Portsmouth. Improving our impact on the health and wellbeing of those in our city and climate change is at the heart of all we do."