The Democratic Services Officer presented the draft Final Report of the Economic Development, Environment and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel on Air Pollution.
The aim of the scrutiny investigation was to identify the causes and impacts of air pollution and suggest measures that could be put in place locally, and as part of national strategies, to reduce those levels and improve air quality.
The Panel discussed conclusions and recommendations for inclusion in the Final Report. An additional recommendation was proposed in relation to the promotion of car share schemes by the Council.
AGREED as follows that:
1. The following conclusions were included in the Final Report:
a) TERM OF REFERENCE A - To investigate air pollution in Middlesbrough: how it is monitored and how it compares regionally/nationally and in relation to EU Standards.
Despite pre-conceptions, Middlesbrough has a very good record in terms of air quality, particularly in the most heavily populated areas of the town. The measures that the Council take to monitor air quality and particulates are detailed, wide-ranging, and provide comprehensive coverage of the town to ensure the Council is aware of any issues. Middlesbroughs latest Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR) dated June 2018, confirms that Middlesbrough air quality is consistently good when compared with Government objectives and no Air Quality Management Areas have been declared.
Middlesbrough has two fixed Air Quality Monitoring Stations and 27 Diffusion Tubes located at 23 sites across Middlesbrough. Common pollutants in Middlesbrough include Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Particulate Matter (PM10 PM2.5) and Sulphur Dioxide.
The Daily Air Quality Index (DAQI) on DEFRAs website: UK Air - Air Information Resource, provides daily updates on pollution levels by region across the UK.
Since 2010, the UK has been in breach of the European Unions (EU) NO2 limit. Two locations in Middlesbrough, both on the A66, have been identified as exceeding these levels. However, work is ongoing using local modelling and data to establish whether the data is the same as that identified through the national model imposed by EU and the results will be reported to the Executive in due course.
b) TERM OF REFERENCE B - To identify and explore what measures Middlesbrough Council has implemented to improve air quality and any future initiatives that are planned.
The latest Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR) (June 2018), lists 38 initiatives that are being planned, or are in the process of being implemented to reduce vehicle use, emissions and congestion.
Middlesbrough Council is currently progressing the design works for five projects to improve air quality along the A66 and has been awarded £1.813m Early Measures funding from the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) to implement these schemes.
As part of Middlesbroughs Local Improvement Plan (LIP), the Cycling and Walking Policy is being refreshed. The Council has an Active Travel Policy encouraging people to walk and cycle more frequently. A range of opportunities exist for Council employees designed to promote sustainable travel and they are promoted on the staff intranet.
The Council is in the process of developing a new Local Plan, which will include a number of policies to mitigate air pollution.
Middlesbrough currently has no tree planting policy. However, when opportunities arise, every effort is made to facilitate planting on Council owned land.
c) TERM OF REFERENCE C - To investigate examples of good practice in other local authority areas which could be adopted in Middlesbrough.
The Panel received a presentation from Leicester City Council, who have implemented an Air Quality Action Plan due to breaching EU air quality standards in NO2. The Plan focusses on reducing transport emissions, promoting sustainable transport, improving traffic management and enhancing planning and the environment. From the evidence provided by Officers, it is clear that Middlesbrough is already implementing similar measures to address air quality.
The Panel also received information about in relation to opportunities for hydrogen in the Tees Valley. The Tees Valley is well-placed to be a national hub for hydrogen power and the development of hydrogen as a fuel source both domestically, industrially and in the transport sector. This is an exciting opportunity and TVCA are leading the drive to deliver this in Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley.
d) TERM OF REFERENCE D - To investigate the impacts of air quality on the local social and physical environment and how this can be mitigated.
Poor air quality has a negative impact on both human health and biodiversity. Chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases can be caused by long-term exposure to air pollution. Air pollution can cause acid rain, damage animals and plants, and contribute to climate change.
Air quality can be improved by reducing emissions from road transport, energy generation and domestic and industrial combustion. Potential air pollution can also be mitigated through design and development: providing good access to open spaces, recreation facilities, landscaped areas and woodland planting. A standard tree absorbs 13 pounds of CO2 per year and can supply enough oxygen for four people each day and some species can also trap airborne pollutants. The more trees that are planted, the greater the mitigating effect on carbon in the atmosphere.
Middlesbrough Council takes environmental concerns into account through the planning process. Green spaces and environmental issues are a key part of the Councils deliberations when considering new developments, whether in terms of housing, infrastructure or business. When designing new developments, easy access to public transport will help to minimise the use of private cars. The incorporation of design features such as car charging points in new developments could help promote the use of electric cars.
2. The following recommendations were included:
a) The Council revert back to replacing all trees on a '1 for 1' basis. The environmental impacts in terms of carbon footprint of planting one tree are massive and where trees have to be removed they should be replaced as a matter of course.
b) The Council should actively encourage local Community Groups, Elected Members and others to access the funding that is available through the Woodland Trust for trees for their local areas and facilitate planting of those trees across the town.
c) Middlesbrough Councils recently established Housing Delivery Vehicle (HDV) should seek to mitigate potential air pollution through design and development in all its projects, ensuring that electric charging points are included as standard in any new builds.
d) Linked to the Panels 2017 report on Bus Services - Middlesbrough Council, through its seat on the TVCA - should lobby private bus companies to deliver hydrogen-powered buses in Tees Valley. Any future voluntary/enhanced partnership/franchising scheme should include provisions for hydrogen buses, with the Tees Valley applying for funding from the Governments Low Emission Bus Scheme (DfT/OLEV) for the purchase of low emission buses and associated infrastructure.
e) The Council should set as an aspiration that by 2023 at least half its vehicles will be powered by hydrogen. This aspiration should be set with a view to continuing joint-working with TVCA and supporting projects such as H21, to deliver research and development into hydrogen power and subsequent large-scale infrastructure investment. Where opportunities arise, the Council should promote making hydrogen a viable alternative fuel source as the move towards increased domestic and industrial use continues apace, recognising both the environmental and economic benefits of decarbonisation.
f) A survey is undertaken to ascertain the current use of electric/hybrid/hydrogen vehicles by Middlesbrough residents.
g) The Council should explore all available opportunities to promote car sharing schemes not only to its own employees but also the wider community and in collaboration with local businesses and other stakeholders.
h) In order to encourage the take-up of low emission vehicles in Middlesbrough, consideration is given to Council Tax reductions for people using electric or hydrogen vehicles.
3. The report would be submitted to the Overview and Scrutiny Board for consideration.