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Clean Air Plan Set to be Approved by Cabinet

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The final plan to reduce dangerous levels of air pollution, cut congestion, improve road links and improve both public transport and cycling infrastructure in the city centre is set to be approved by Cabinet.

The proposals have been designed in response to a legal challenge made by Client Earth on the Welsh Government, which legally bound the Council to take action to reduce pollution levels to a legal limit in the shortest possible time.

The proposed measures will significantly improve the air quality around the centre of Cardiff, which in turn will improve public health. The final plan is forecasted to cost £21m, the majority of which is expected to come from the Welsh Government’s clean air fund identified to deal with this urgent issue.

An independent survey commissioned by the Council to forecast future NO2 pollution levels in the city has identified that Castle Street is likely to breach EU legal limits beyond 2021, with other nearby roads are also a cause for concern. The survey was carried out by industry leaders Ricardo and followed similar studies undertaken in several major British cities.

Cllr Wild, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport, said:

“Air pollution on Castle Street is the symptom of a wider problem which extends far beyond this stretch of road. We may be within legal limits across the city, but the cleaner we can make the air the better it will be for everyone. We need to be clear that we need to decrease the number of cars that travel through the city centre, whilst increasing the space available for public transport and active travel.”

The Cabinet will be asked to approve the final business case at its meeting on Thursday, June 13th, so that the final plan can be submitted to the Welsh Government to meet the legal deadline and make a a funding bid to implement the measures.

The final proposed measures are:

  • Electric Buses: The cost to fund electric buses will be delivered through the Ultra-Low Emission Bus Fund from the Department of Transport and will be match funded by a council loan to Cardiff Bus rather than a funding bid to the Clean Air Fund.
  • Bus Retrofitting Scheme: The introduction of a Bus Retrofitting Scheme for bus operators in Cardiff to upgrade older buses so they meet Euro 6 engine emission standards. This is forecasted to cost £2.25m compared with the previous estimate of £1.8m. The increase in the cost is due to this scheme being made available to all bus operators.
  • City centre schemes: Major changes to both Castle Street and Westgate Street and the city centre loop to allow for better and more efficient movement of public transport (buses) and increasing active travel capacity in the city centre. Originally forecasted to cost £18.9m, this has reduced to £15.2m, as alternative grant funding has been received for part of the scheme.
  • Taxi measures: Initially the plan was to provide funding to assist taxi drivers with the purchase of hybrid or electric vehicles. Following legal advice, funding can only be provided for the running/operating costs of electric or hybrid vehicles. A target has been set for 30% of the taxi trade to switch to either hybrid or electric vehicles through the revised taxi policy. Originally estimated to cost £5.5m, this has now reduced to £1.86m.
  • Improvements to Active Travel: The funding bid for active travel has reduced from the initial estimate of £4.2m to £1.28m. This is due to successful grant funding which has been secured through an alternative grant since the outline business case was produced.

Cllr Caro Wild continued:

“The health of people in Cardiff has been our main priority throughout this process, and despite tight timescales and complex technical processes, I am pleased that we have met all of the deadlines that have been set and we have been proactive in coming to our final plan with the Welsh Government.

“The Project has explored a significant number of measures that could be put in place. These measures have now been narrowed down to shortlist of schemes that we know will work. The schemes that are being proposed will not only achieve legal compliance but significantly reduce the amount of N02 and other key pollutants in the city centre which will significantly improve air quality and public health.

“Guidance by the UK Government Joint Air Quality Unit clearly states that a charging clean air zone should only be implemented if non-charging alternatives are found to be inefficient to bring compliance in the shortest time possible.

“Through all the modelling that has taken place, the proposed measures will achieve compliance quicker than a clean air zone, as well as bring a much wider improvement to air quality across the city’s boundaries.

“The council has already carried out a public consultation on the proposed measures and there has been overwhelming support for the project. Further consultation on individual schemes will take place in line with statutory requirements.”

“It is accepted that the necessary improvements to the road network in the city centre will be an inconvenience while the work takes place, but it is essential that these improvements are made to ensure that travel by bus, bike and those who want to walk is made easier, safer and becomes a more attractive option.”

Cabinet Member for Social Care, Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Susan Elsmore said:

 “Everyone living, working and visiting Cardiff has the right to breathe in clean air and that is at the forefront of this plan.

“Working with Welsh Government we have explored various schemes which we believe will work best to reduce pollution in the centre of Cardiff, helping to promote benefits to public health and wellbeing in and around the Welsh Capital.

“Successful measures to improve air quality in Cardiff have already included schemes such as Nextbike, Car Free Day and our support of the Healthy Travel Charter, to promote Active Travel, which have all been well received. I am confident that through collaborative working these proposals can be implemented efficiently to ensure is Cardiff a healthier city.”

The Cabinet will be asked to approve the measures set out in the final plan, approve for the necessary statutory consultation to take place on the city centre road improvements as well as approve for the project to tender a contractor for the first phase of the city centre schemes in Central Square, Castle Street and Station Terrace.