The aim of city centre regeneration is to deliver local benefit by delivering jobs and growth. However, successful regeneration, including an explosion of city centre accommodation, means more people risk being subject to the harmful effects of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), chiefly from diesel emissions.
The UK Government has revealed its air quality plan, which includes the proposed introduction of clean air zones in several urban areas. Could this have a negative impact on vehicle fleets and transport-related businesses?
How Far is Far Enough?
“The Government’s air quality plan is controversial because for some critics it doesn’t go far enough,” comments Alan Locke of AYCEN Group, who specialise in maintaining vehicle fleets. “And this is against a background of the courts compelling them to make it more robust.”
“For some businesses, particularly those with vehicles fleets, the clean air zone proposals spell uncertainty”
“At present, the onus has shifted onto local authorities, who will have the authority to decide whether to charge diesel vehicles to enter clean air zones,” he says.
“While the idea of the plan is that local authorities should first explore all other options before choosing to charge, the fact that charging could be an option means uncertainty for vehicle fleets and fleet managers,” says Alan.
What About Incentives?
“Fleet managers recognise and understand that bringing new, cleaner cars, vans, trucks and buses, onto our roads quickly should be a priority for public health, but there should be incentives in place for this, to encourage rather than punish businesses”
One such incentive is a national scrappage scheme, whereby commercial vehicle operators receive cash in exchange for trading in older diesel vehicles.
“Since 2010, NO2 levels have been above legal limits in 90% of the UK’s urban areas, and nitrogen dioxide is the cause of around 23,500 early deaths a year,” states Alan. “While regeneration and renewal has had a marked economic success, its health implications are increasingly grave.”
The government has included proposals for a scrappage scheme in the technical report that goes with its plan. These are awaiting Defra’s consultation and its conclusions.
“Vehicle fleets can change with the right incentives without making them subject to severe restrictions on movement that might damage them economically,” concludes Alan. “This shouldn’t be a choice between economics and people’s health, which means a combined approach to reducing diesel emissions should work best.”
To read more of Alan Locke’s views on this issue, please read his LinkedIn post.