MPs underline planning's role in tackling air pollution

Joined-up action across local authority departments is vital in curbing air pollution threats from traffic, Parliament's environmental watchdog has told ministers.

Traffic: 'joined up action needed'
Traffic: 'joined up action needed'
In a report out today, the Commons environmental audit committee claimed that the government is putting thousands of lives at risk by trying to water down EU air quality rules, instead of prioritising action to cut pollution on UK roads.

It says that good cooperation is needed between council departments responsible for spatial planning, transport, climate change and public health "to ensure a strategic approach to improving the quality of life for those living near busy roads and junctions".

The committee report says that the government must help local authorities identify areas where conflicts arise and improvements can be made. "This needs to be done in a way that influences decisions taken by local enterprise partnerships and planning authorities," it says.

According to its findings, dangerous levels of particulate matter and chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide are contributing to tens of thousands of early deaths every year in UK cities. But it says ministers appear to be actively trying to dilute safety standards to avoid EU fines.
 
"It is a national scandal that thousands of people are still dying from air pollution in the UK in 2011 – and the government is taking no responsibility for this," said committee chair Joan Walley. "Despite a coalition pledge to meet European safety standards on air pollution, the government appears to be lobbying behind the scenes to water these rules down."
 
The committee said the government should help local authorities remove the most polluting vehicles from Britain’s streets by introducing a national framework for low-emission zones. It also urged ministers to launch a public awareness campaign to drive air quality up the political agenda.
 
Under EU air quality laws, daily pollution levels of PM10 particulates must exceed the legal limit on more than 35 days in a year. Citing Campaign for Clean Air figures, the committee said London had already exceeded this threshold by 21 April this year.

The report can be read here.

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