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Give councils technical support to clean up dirty air, say MPs


Local authorities should be given more technical support to devise and implement schemes to clean up dirty air, a report by MPs has found.

MPs from a four-committee inquiry into how air quality can be improved have called for a new Clean Air Act as well as a national programme of support for councils. The MPs are from the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Environmental Audit, Health and Social Care, and Transport Committees.

The report dubs pollution a “national health emergency” and among other measures, says that 45 local authority areas currently outside current pollution reduction schemes should be offered “direction, financial resources, and technical support.” It also says that climate change schemes, urban planning, transport and fiscal incentives need to be aligned so that government policy does not work at “cross purposes.”

The report also calls for the transport industry to finance a clean air fund and the 2040 target to ban the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars to be brought forward.

Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee chair Neil Parish MP said: “The Government’s latest plan does not present an effective response to the scale of the air quality catastrophe in the UK. We are concerned that the Government is treating air quality as a box-ticking exercise. Real change will require bold, meaningful action. We are calling on Government to develop a properly resourced support scheme available to all councils struggling with air quality, and to require manufacturers of polluting vehicles to pay their fair share by contributing to an industry-financed clean air fund.”

In response, WSP’s head of air quality Bethan Tuckett-Jones said engineers had a critical role to play in moving towards a low emission future: “Engineers such as ours at WSP will be required to think holistically in relation to emissions to ensure we do not continue the cycle of solving and creating problems. Without engineers designing next generation distribution networks, vehicle charging points and transport networks that work well, the clean air future called by the Comittees will remain a policy dream.”


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