UK Government launches £220m Clean Air Fund

The UK Government has unveiled a £220m fund to improve air quality across the most polluted areas in the country, alongside a £40m support scheme for local authorities to combat air pollution.

The £220m Clean Air Fund was launched on Friday (23 March), giving local authorities access to a range of measures to minimise air quality impacts. New park and ride services, improvements to bus fleets, freight consolidation centres and concessionary travel schemes have all been earmarked by the Government has implementations to help improve air quality levels.

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We have been clear that local leaders are best placed to develop innovative plans that rapidly meet the needs of their communities. Today’s funding demonstrates the government’s commitment to support the local momentum needed and continue to improve our air now and for future generations.

“Improving air quality is about more than just tackling emissions from transport, so later this year we will publish a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy. This will set out how we will address all forms of air pollution, delivering cleaner air for the whole country.”

A UK-wide plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration – considered a major polluter – was agreed in July 2017, outlining how councils could combat air pollution at road junctions and hotspots. Following a consultation, the £220m fund has now been formalised.

Implementation steps

The announcements for part of a £3.5bn plan to improve air quality and reduce harmful emissions. A study found that 44 of 51 UK towns and cities breach air quality rules on an annual basis.

Local authorities will also gain access to £40m of the £255m Implementation Fund set up to enable councils to take action on air quality. More than £35m will be granted to the 28 local authorities exposed to the worst cases of air pollution, enabling them to install electric charging points, build cycle routes and invest in ultra-low emission taxis. A further £2.4m is available from the Air Quality Grant, while £1.65m will support 33 local authorities in conducting feasibility studies to identify measures that can improve air quality in the shortest possible time.

The Government has a poor track record on combatting air pollution levels. Ministers have been taken to court numerous times over failures to combat toxic air pollution. Earlier this year, the High Court ruled in favour of environmental law firm ClientEarth, marking the third time the organisation had won a court case against ministers.

Earlier this month, an unprecedented new report compiled by four MP committees accused the Government of viewing air quality as a “box-ticking exercise” and called for a new Clean Air Act to be introduced.

Matt Mace

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