William Eichler 27 April 2016

Powers to tackle pollution should be devolved to councils, committee says

Councils should be given powers to create Clean Air Zones to help stop 50,000 people a year dying early from pollution-related illnesses, says committee.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published a study urging Whitehall to devolve greater development and traffic movement powers to local authorities to tackle vehicle pollution.

The committee’s air quality report calls for the creation of dozens of Clean Air Zones in towns and cities across the country to cut the risk of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases caused by polluted air.

The department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) plans to create Clean Air Zones in five cities—Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton—but this, the committee says, does not go far enough. It also describes it as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan.

Neil Parish MP, chair of the committee, said: ‘Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.’

‘The zones need to deliver local solutions to local problems,’ he continued. 

‘Defra’s proposed 'one-size-fits-all' clean air zones will set rigid rules on cities as diverse as Southampton and Leeds.’

He added: ’Communities must be given legal powers to set controls that meet their own circumstances—for example, some might want to charge polluting vehicles to access zones at certain times of day or to target specific bus routes.’

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