The government has announced the latest round of funding for local projects to improve air quality across England.
Local Authorities can bid for a portion of at least £2 million for a wide range of projects to improve air quality and create cleaner and healthier environments.
Since it was established, the Air Quality Grant scheme has awarded around £64.5 million to a variety of projects benefitting schools, businesses and communities, and reducing the impact of dirty air on people’s health.
These projects have contributed to the significant improvement in air quality seen in the UK in recent decades. Levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – particles or liquid droplets in the air which present the greatest risk to public health – have reduced by 9% since 2010, and levels of nitrogen dioxide from vehicles are now at their lowest levels since records began.
A spokesperson for the Harrogate & District Green Party said:
It is of course welcome that the Government seeks to address the impact of air pollution on health, and during this time we are particularly reminded of the importance of respiratory health. It is completely unacceptable that 28,000 – 36,000 deaths per year* are attributed to the effects of air pollution in England. However, it is also clear that offering a (very) small pot of money for Local Authorities to bid for will not create widespread improvements to air quality and public health. We need joined-up approaches with policies across all sectors working together.
A local example highlights the issues; how can the Council permit 2 acres of woodland on public land to be removed for the expansion of a private company and simultaneously claim to be working to improve air quality? The Rotary Woods is an extremely valuable ecosystem and with the Harrogate Climate Coalition looking to increase tree planting across the region to meet the national average cover, it is ludicrous to allow this habitat to be removed.
A market-driven approach is simply inadequate to provide the changes we need in the timescale we need them. Pots of money encouraging competitive bids result in cutting corners and inequalities and does not empower local people to have a say in the kind of communities they want to live in.
The local authority needs to address the concerns of communities such as the use of diesel vehicles in built-up areas, especially around schools, where idling cars increase the levels of pollution. Look at the effects of the increased sales of SUV’s and their contributions to the climate crisis and put resources into applications for research, signage, and physical works such as safe cycle routes to address key issues for the area.
Harrogate & District Green Party submitted a detailed action for sustainable travel to NYCC in June this year, highlighting a need to improve air quality throughout the region. We have also contributed to a wider North Yorkshire Greens campaign called Kids Commute. We’re asking local people to write to their Councillors and ask for measures to increase the safety and quality of our streets and communities by reducing traffic and pollution with alternative travel schemes properly catered for. You can read more about these schemes on our website under ‘useful documents’ and if you need help identifying and writing to your Councillor, or have any feedback or suggestions, please get in touch.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:
Air pollution, and in particular PM2.5, carries enormous risks to human health which is why we are continuing to provide funding to local authorities to help them take action. This is part of delivering on the ambition in our world-leading Clean Air Strategy to halve the harm to human health from air pollution by 2030.
We know that Local Authorities are in the best position to address the issues they face in their areas and we look forward to receiving ideas for ways to reduce emissions and promote cleaner, greener alternatives.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said:
I’m delighted to see the launch of the next round of funding for councils in towns and cities across the country to help reduce transport emissions and improve air quality for our local communities.
From schools, to local businesses and households, it’s vital that we support a diverse range of projects to create cleaner, greener and healthier places to live.
The grant application process is competitive, with projects to tackle PM2.5 particularly welcomed by Defra. The best projects will also develop long-term solutions to increase awareness and encourage behaviour change.
Applicants in previous years have been awarded funding to test indoor air quality and the effectiveness of filter systems in schools, develop clean air village projects joining up several London boroughs, and raise awareness around domestic burning and the dangers of using harmful fuels such as coal and wet wood.
Applications for the grant open from 2 September and close at 12pm on 14 October 2020.
This fund will contribute towards meeting the objectives of Defra’s 2019 Clean Air Strategy, the most ambitious air quality strategy in a generation, which has been praised by the World Health Organisation as “an example for the rest of the world to follow”.
It also complements the wider UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which includes a £3.5 billion investment into air quality and cleaner transport. The plan is supporting the uptake of low emissions vehicles, getting more people to cycle and walk, and encouraging cleaner public transport.
Local Authorities in England are invited to apply via Bravo. Further details on how to apply are available on the Air Quality Grants GOV.UK page.