Councils benefit from multi-million pound clean air funding pot

Councils from Nottingham, East Herts and Bristol and South Gloucestershire are amongst those to benefit from this year's £3.7m Air Quality Grant programme, aimed at assisting local authorities in enhancing air quality levels in their areas.

The £3.7m funding will be split across numerous councils. Projects to receive funding this year include an electric vehicle (EV) charging and infrastructure deployment in East Herts (£163,100) a Clean Air Zone study in Bristol (£498,000) and EV purchases in Nottingham (£400,000).

Environment minister Therese Coffey said: “Tackling poor air quality is a priority for the government and we are working closely with Local Authorities so they can play a crucial role in this.

“I was delighted at the broad range of ideas submitted – from using the latest technology to promoting cleaner taxis and increasing the uptake of electric vehicles – and these projects will help to improve the quality of life for people who live and work in our towns and cities, both now and in the future.”

The programme has awarded £52m since its inception in 1997, and this year’s grant will focus on introducing schemes to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels. Despite this, the European Commission has sent a “final warning” to the UK for failing to address repeated breaches of legal air pollution limits in 16 areas.

Funding intricacies

Nottingham City Council successfully bid for two £200,000 grants. One scheme will trial fuel cell technology at the council’s operational buildings, the second will integrate ultra-low emission vehicles into the local NHS fleet.

Nottingham will also benefit from a share of the £539,120 fund from the Joint Air Quality Unit, which was set up by Defra and the Department for Transport last year. Nottingham is one of five cities acting as a Clean Air Zone as part of the Government’s national air quality plan. The other cities are Birmingham, Southampton, Derby and Leeds.

“We are delighted to take part in this Air Quality initiative from the Joint Air Quality Unit. This funding will complement the current programme of works led by the Energy Projects Service to target high energy use buildings for energy saving measures to reduce emissions and operational costs for Nottingham City Council,” Councillor Alan Clark, portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, said.

“We are really excited about fuel cell technology. Early indications show that this technology could be really effective in reducing harmful emissions and buildings that use these new systems will also see significant reductions in their energy bills. This could have a huge benefit not only for the City Council but also for local businesses and households.” 

Despite continuous funding towards cleaner air schemes, data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that more than 10 towns and cities in the UK breached standards for PM10 particulate matter, which is currently set at a “safe” annual average of 20 micrograms per cubic metre.

The funding for clean air initiatives are also on the decline. Last year, the Government halved the amount of money given to local authorities in England to combat rising air pollution issues.

Matt Mace

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