Senior council chiefs have unveiled wide-ranging proposals for dealing with Canterbury’s air quality problem.
Among the measures is increasing the size of the city’s Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and potentially introducing fines for drivers who fail to turn off their engines when in stationary in traffic.
Council leader Simon Cook insists the measures are not a direct response to mounting concern over air quality, which last week intensified with the approval of a new multi-storey car park in Station Road West, but part of the authority’s duty to protect the environment.
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The Conservative said: “Fining drivers who leave their engines running while sitting in traffic after they’ve been asked to turn them off is just one of a number of things we’re looking at.
“Quite frankly, it’s selfish and people ought to be more considerate of others. This would be aimed at people sat in a queue because the level crossing barriers are down and they know they will be there for five minutes or if they are waiting for their children outside a school or their passenger has popped into a shop while they wait outside.
The council will also be looking for the public’s views on its Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP).
Among the proposals is varying the AQMA which covers the worst affected streets such as St Dunstan’s, Military Road, Sturry Road, Wincheap, Station Road West and much of the Ring Road.
Potential additions to it are a small section of London Road close to the Rheims Way, a section of Chaucer Road, a small section of Military Road, a small section of St George’s Place, a small section of Lower Chantry Lane and a section of Old Dover Road.
The city council is keen to point out that Canterbury is not one of the 45 worst-performing cities in the UK nor is it predicted to exceed the EU limit values for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).
Cllr Cook went on: “We take the need to improve air quality in some areas of the district extremely seriously and our draft Air Quality Action Plan is a statement of our intent to achieve this.
“While we will do all we can as an organisation to improve air quality, the district needs to come together to make a positive impact.
“Individuals can make a massive difference with the choices they make alongside Kent County Council which has responsibility for transport and as the highways authority, other public sector bodies, businesses, the higher and further education sector, schools, public transport providers and the NHS.
“This list is not an exhaustive one. We want to hear people’s ideas and possible solutions to the air quality problem. The more people we can get involved, the more effective our final plan will be.”
The council’s policy and resources committee will be asked a week today (Tuesday) to consider its draft action plan which covers five areas: public health, transport, planning and infrastructure, awareness and education and its strategic approach.
Details of the council’s ideas for each area follow.
On public health, the council proposes to:
- Review the city council’s staff travel plan to cut car journeys
- Work with KCC to promote car sharing, the new park and pedal scheme and safe cycling
- Establish a Canterbury Car Club
- Adopt district-wide anti-idling enforcement powers and enforce at coach parks, on-street parking bays, taxi ranks and at level crossings. We need to raise awareness of the problems caused by leaving your engine running
- Encourage bus companies to introduce more environmentally-friendly buses
- Work with KCC and the bus companies to review bus timetables and routes
- Continue negotiations over a potential cycle hire scheme for Canterbury
- Work with venues across the district to restrict the use of solid-fuel generators
- Continue to enforce industrial pollution controls
On transport, the council proposes to:
- Use the fee structure to encourage taxi drivers and their firms to use low-emission vehicles
- Work with freight companies to encourage them to use the right routes around the city and promote better driving which is shown to reduce emissions
- Develop a strong partnership with the bus companies to establish a framework for improving the bus network and fleet
- Review the council’s park and ride bus contract to ensure use of low-emission buses
- Investigate the feasibility of running park and ride buses to and from railway stations
- Investigate ways of incentivising drivers to use park and ride car parks
- Promote the clean–air message on roadside variable message signs on the major routes into Canterbury
On planning and infrastructure, the council proposes to:
- Increase capacity at the New Dover Road, Sturry Road and Wincheap park and ride sites
- Include electric charging points at strategic development sites
- Upgrade electric charging points in Sturry Road and New Dover Road park and ride sites and include them at the redeveloped Wincheap park and ride
- Ensure all city council car parks have electric charging points where suitable, promote electric charging points at supermarkets and universities, install charging points at taxi ranks and on-street points where possible
- Improve a number of streets in Canterbury city centre to encourage people to walk
- Improve a number of cycle routes – Farleigh Road to Barton Mill, Thanington to Wincheap and along the new link road, A257 to Chaucer Road
- Work with developers and KCC to create a host of new cycle routes including Bridge to Canterbury and Hersden to Sturry
- Work with KCC to create a network of bus lanes
- Work with developers and Kent County Council to deliver the A2 off-slip at Wincheap, the Wincheap contraflow, a new A2 interchange at Bridge, the A28 to A257 relief road through Howe Barracks and improved intelligent traffic management around the ring road
- Work with Network Rail to minimise delays at level crossings
- Support improvement in the district’s IT infrastructure to encourage more home working
On publicity and education, the council proposes to:
- Roll out a publicity and marketing campaign highlighting the issues in the action plan
- Link with national initiatives to raise awareness of pollution where possible
- Pilot a scheme at a number of schools to raise awareness of the issue of idling when parents drop off their children with a view to rolling this out throughout the district
- Create a marketing campaign encouraging owners of wood-burning stoves to use them correctly
In its strategic approach, the council proposes to:
- Make sure permits and licences issued by the council for markets, events and businesses that trade on council land or use council properties restrict the use of generators powered by diesel petrol or solid fuel
- Make air quality a key component of our procurement process especially when buying vehicles and plant
- Strengthen our links to other stakeholders and agencies to realise the full benefits of partnership working and funding opportunities
- Work with neighbouring authorities on a Kent-wide low emission strategy
- Work with the University of Kent on an air quality monitoring project and one on anti-idling signs
Since the last action plan was launched, the city council has:
- Improved the park and ride service
- Worked with KCC to ensure a new slip road onto the Dover-bound A2 at Wincheap
- Provided new and improved cycle routes including Stour Valley Way, the Viking Coastal Trail and the Crab and Winkle Line
- Adopted the Transport Strategy and Air Quality Policy, which form part of the Local
- Plan and put a strong emphasis on reducing vehicle traffic and the promotion of walking and cycling
- Considered mitigation measures to reduce air pollution for all new developments with reference to the Kent and Medway Air Quality Partnership guidance for developments which may have an impact on the AQMA
- Digitised a lot of the council’s work to allow staff to work from home or remotely to reduce the number of times they drive into the office
- Our flexible working policy allows staff to travel to and from work outside peak times
- We have established a Sustainable Transport Forum to act as a sounding board