Nottingham Air Quality Plan Welcomed by Freight Industry

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Air quality plans that have recently been agreed for the city of Nottingham have drawn the approval of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA). The proposals, designed to reduce vehicle emissions in the city, notably do not include the introduction of a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) – a move that has been seen as positive by industry bodies in contrast to air quality schemes drawn up for other cities.

Nottingham City Council has been working with the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for Transport (DfT) for the past three years to deliver a plan that will reduce air pollution levels in the city as quickly as possible, and ensure compliance with legal air quality thresholds. The plan forms part of a wider £3.5 billion government initiative to address harmful vehicle emissions across the country – Nottingham is the first local authority to have its city plan approved.

The Nottingham air quality plan will involve retrofitting 171 city buses with new technology designed to reduce emissions, with funding from the government’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. There will also be central government funding towards conversion of other vehicles in the city’s fleet, replacing high-emission vehicles such as existing bin lorries with new, cleaner electric vehicles. There are also a number of initiatives being introduced in support of an increase in low-emission taxis, including a licensing discount for drivers and a taxi rank with electric charging points. The city council rejected initial plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone that would charge those using non-compliant, higher-emission vehicles, arguing that the other methods proposed would bring the city into compliance more quickly.

Responding to the proposals, Chris Yarsley, FTA’s Policy Manager for the Midlands, said: “The logistics sector is committed to reducing its vehicle emissions wherever possible and takes this responsibility very seriously … The decision to overturn the mandate that Nottingham must introduce a CAZ sets a welcome precedent that government will consider more tailored plans that reflect the needs of each community.”

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, added: “Nottingham’s approach shows that a local authority can significantly reduce nitrogen dioxide levels by investing in cleaner technology.”

In contrast to Nottingham’s plans to reduce air pollution levels, proposals outlined for other cities have drawn criticism from the freight industry. Cities including Southampton, Leeds and Sheffield have all proposed plans that would introduce Clean Air Zones, within which drivers of non-Euro VI compliant lorries could be charged as much as £100 a day to operate. There is particular controversy around the proposals from Southampton City Council, as the RHA claims that the local authority has gone back on a commitment they made to talk to hauliers in the area about their plans.

Referring to proposals in Derby, which is also opting to move away from a CAZ model, the FTA’s Chris Yarsley commented: “Derby City Council is currently presenting its case against a CAZ, believing other solutions will deliver a better outcome in a quicker time frame without damaging its local economy. The FTA calls on DEFRA to deliver the same answer to Derby as they did to Nottingham, and to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a CAZ truly is the best medicine to reducing a city’s pollution.”

At Hemisphere, we are fully committed to reducing our carbon footprint. While we applaud any measures implemented by the government and local authorities to tackle poor air quality, the commercial impact on freight companies and their customers should always be considered as part of this process. It’s encouraging that this appears to have happened in the cases of both Nottingham and Derby – and we hope the industry continues to be heard when similar schemes are proposed elsewhere.