YORK’S clean air zone will be the first in the country – as the city takes strides to cut pollution.
New measures being considered by the council could include using rickshaws to transport stock to shops and restaurants in the city centre, cutting the number of vans and lorries allowed into the pedestrian zone.
And polluting vans and HGVs could be added to the vehicles restricted under the city’s clean air zone scheme.
The first compulsory clean air zones planned to tackle high pollution levels in Leeds, Bath and Birmingham were due to be launched in January 2021 but are set to be delayed due to the coronavirus response.
But York’s clean air zone, which is also the UK’s only voluntary zone, is still due to be rolled out in January, a council meeting heard.
The zone will only apply to buses in York at first and Mike Southcombe, from the council’s public protection team, said: “Just to stress, ours is the first clean air zone in the country. Whilst many other cities have backed off implementing a clean air zone for various reasons, York has pushed ahead and delivered the first one in the UK.”
He outlined future plans to improve air quality – including a funding bid the council has made to government for cash to use rickshaws, bikes or another zero carbon vehicles to deliver goods to city centre businesses from a depot outside the pedestrian zone.
Mr Southcombe said: “We are putting in a bid to reduce emissions from HGVs, but also white vans as well.
“And we’re looking at measures where we can have last [mile] delivery to locations via zero emissions sources – that could be electric vehicles, alternatively bicycles – we know that they’re very successful as well – but we’re also considering things such as rickshaws and anything else that doesn’t pollute or congest our environment.”
The council’s anti-idling campaign – with the slogan ‘kick the habit’ – is also being used in Oxford.
Further work to tackle air quality includes making York taxis electric or low emission, measures to make buildings greener through planning conditions and plans to build superfast charging hubs for electric vehicles.
York has also bid to become the UK’s first all electric bus city.
Cllr Paula Widdowson welcomed the plans, saying: “We’re in a fantastic position.
“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.”
Pollution is linked to poor health and recent research suggests it can also cause worse coronavirus symptoms, the meeting heard.
Air quality has improved up to 43 per cent in some areas of the city during lockdown – but remains higher in other locations.
In Fishergate concentrations of particulate PM10 have risen above World Health Organisation guideline levels for the first time – but in other monitoring areas levels are well below the threshold, the meeting heard.
And in Bootham concentrations of PM2.5 are increasing – indicating that the source in that location may not be traffic, Mr Southcombe said.