And what about “funnel roads” such as that running through Sidbury and Sidford – should they have exclusions from plans for more and more polluting vehicles passing inches away from residential properties – where children and vulnerable older people live?
“Dozens of councils could face legal action over delays in tackling toxic gas from diesel vehicles.
Only London and Birmingham have imposed or promised charges on the most polluting cars while other cities allow drivers to emit harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) without any fee.
Many local authorities, including those covering Manchester, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Bath and Derby, have missed legal deadlines set by the government to submit plans to clean up their air.
ClientEarth, the campaign group that won three legal cases against the government over illegal levels of air pollution, has written to 38 councils in England and Wales warning them of the legal risk of failing to act.
Katie Nield, a ClientEarth lawyer, said: “We are extremely concerned given the urgency of the situation at the glacial progress of action from local authorities. It is now almost a decade since legal limits came into place and they are still being broken in large parts of the country. Every week that goes by without action is another week where people are breathing in harmful air pollution which damages their health. This is particularly true of vulnerable groups like children.”
Tackling air pollution was ultimately the government’s responsibility but local authorities “should not be using government inaction as an excuse not to do all they can to protect people from breathing dirty air”, Ms Nield added.
Air pollution contributes to far more deaths than previously thought, according to a study last week which said it had shortened the lives of 64,000 people in the UK in 2015.
Clean air zones, in which polluting vehicles are charged a daily entry fee, are the fastest way of reducing NO2 to within legal limits, according to a Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) report in 2017.
Cars are the biggest source of NO2 in cities but London and Birmingham are the only cities committed to charging pre-2016 diesel and pre-2006 petrol models. Manchester, Bristol and Bath had been considering car charges but dropped the idea after being accused of penalising drivers on low incomes.
The High Court ordered the government in 2016 and again last year to take stronger action on air pollution, prompting ministers to order councils to produce plans to comply with the legal limit in the “shortest possible time”.
The councils have spent the past year discussing how to tackle pollution but most have repeatedly delayed taking action and missed deadlines for delivering final plans for Defra approval.
Jenny Bates, of Friends of the Earth, accused councils of “running scared of the motoring lobby” by refusing to start charging polluting cars.
Bath and North East Somerset council is planning a clean air zone in Bath, charging buses, lorries, vans and taxis “by the end of 2020” but cars will be exempt. It said many residents had objected to a £9 daily charge.
A spokesman for ten local authorities in Manchester, which has more than 150 roads with illegal levels of NO2, said it also planned to exempt cars from charges phased in by 2023. He said computer modelling had shown its plans would reduce NO2 to within the legal limit by 2024. Derby city council said it would submit plans for tackling air pollution to Defra next Tuesday.
Bristol city council said its mayor, Marvin Rees, recently had a “conversation with the minister” about tackling air pollution. Thérèse Coffey, an environment minister, wrote to Mr Rees in January saying she was “absolutely astonished at your delay in improving air quality for the people of Bristol as quickly as possible”.
Newcastle city council expected its air quality plan would be implemented “in late 2019 and into 2020”. Other councils sent the legal warnings by ClientEarth include Cardiff, Portsmouth, Sheffield, Leicester and Liverpool.”
Source: Times (pay wall)