Air Clean Up
How Is York Creating the UK's First Clean Air Zone?
Oct 17 2020 Read 813 Times
York is set to become the first city in the UK to offer a Clean Air Zone next January. The government identified three other cities – Bath, Birmingham and Leeds – which were scheduled to introduce their own Clean Air Zones at the start of next year, but all three have delayed implementation until a later date due to their focus being occupied by the coronavirus response.
York, however, intends to plough ahead with its own plans, including restricting access to the city centre for older and more polluting HGVs and vans. The city authorities are also aiming to convert their entire fleet of buses to electric, while also installing a network of superfast charging stations and hiring rickshaws, bikes and EVs to deliver stock to businesses in the Zone.
Upon its implementation, the Clean Air Zone will initially only apply to buses, as York aims to become the first city in the UK to offer an all-electric fleet. However, there are a raft of other measures in the pipeline that are geared towards improving air quality and reducing transport-related pollution.
For starters, the council are keen to cut down on the emissions produced by HGVs and white vans, since these account for a significant proportion of the pollution produced by road transport in the city. In order to facilitate the delivery of essential stock and other items to local businesses in the CBD, they envision employing a fleet of EVs, bikes and rickshaws to cover the last mile of the delivery chain.
Other ideas include converting the city’s taxi fleet to EVs or low-emission vehicles, building hubs of superfast EV charging points throughout the city and redesigning its architectural layout by restructuring the conditions for achieving planning permission to make buildings greener.
Room for improvement
The lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 have seen air pollution levels fall by as much as 43% in some parts of York. However, sophisticated new monitoring technology for particulate matter has revealed that PM2.5 levels are increasing in areas like Bootham, indicating the scale of the challenge ahead.
Nonetheless, York is fully prepared to meet it and has adopted a “Kick the Habit” slogan, aimed at encouraging drivers not to allow their engines to idle while at a standstill in the city centre. Another positive sign is the fact that unlike those being introduced in Bath, Birmingham and Leeds, York’s Clean Air Zone has not been mandated by the government, but is rather a voluntary initiative.
“We’re in a fantastic position,” commented Councillor Paula Widdowson. “What I’m really delighted to hear as well is it’s a holistic approach, it’s including commercial and domestic buildings and their emissions as well as transport.”
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