Consideration was given to the report which detailed how air quality was now a major issue of growing interest and significance at a national and international level.
The National Air Quality Plan, published by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in July 2017, identified those Local Authorities with areas that are not compliant with the European Union (EU) Ambient Air Quality Directive were identified through national air quality modelling. Twenty-eight Local Authorities were included (‘mandated’) in the plan, including Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) and Sheffield City Council (SCC). RMBC and SCC were ‘jointly mandated’ on the basis that the Parkway in both Sheffield and Rotherham was identified as being non-compliant.
This had placed Rotherham and Sheffield under a legal duty to improve the Borough’s air quality by reducing NO? emissions below the legal limits in the shortest possible time. The Councils were required to submit a proposal to Government (an Outline Business Case) to demonstrate how they would reduce emissions in the shortest possible timescale, by 31st December, 2018.
A feasibility study has been undertaken to locally assess air quality across Rotherham and Sheffield, to identify key locations where air quality was above the EU limits and to identify and assess mitigating actions to improve air quality at these locations. The findings of the study indicate that Sheffield would need to introduce a Category C charging zone (covering non-compliant buses, taxis, HGVs, LGVs), within (but including) the inner ring-road of the city centre, in order to achieve legal compliance by 2021. The study concluded, however, that a charging zone was not required in Rotherham for the Borough to achieve compliance.
The study identifies that measures would need to be taken at four specific locations across Rotherham to achieve compliance. The proposals in Rotherham, therefore, focused on changes to speed limits on the Rotherham section of the Parkway, improvements to the Rotherham bus fleet and the routing of buses on Rawmarsh Hill and Fitzwilliam Road, and the restriction of HGVs on Wortley Road.
These options were proposed to be accompanied by a number of additional measures, which aimed to support businesses to improve their fleet and improve air quality, such as targeted support to upgrade vehicles.
The Council would seek Government funding, through the Outline Business Case, to deliver on these proposals.
Following submission of the Outline Business Case, a wide-ranging statutory consultation across Rotherham and Sheffield was proposed to begin in early 2019. The Councils would seek the views of people who lived and worked across both areas, and the views of Rotherham’s businesses and residents. This consultation would inform the submission of a Full Business Case to Government later in 2019.
The Council is therefore required by law to identify mitigating actions to improve air quality at these sites in the ‘shortest possible timescale’. The sites were:-
· Sheffield Parkway in RMBC area (A630) (8% reduction in NO2 required).
· Rawmarsh Hill (A633), Rawmarsh (6% reduction in NO2 required).
· Fitzwilliam Road (A630), Eastwood (2% reduction in NO2 required).
· Wortley Road and Upper Wortley Road, Kimberworth and Thorpe Hesley (A629) (3% reduction in NO2 required).
The M1 remained a major cause of air pollution for Sheffield and Rotherham, however, responsibility for the M1 fell to Highways England rather than the Local Authorities. Whilst Highways England have been involved with the development of Sheffield and Rotherham’s proposals the Council continued to urge Government to take a more robust, strategic approach with Highways England, to address emissions from the motorway network.
This report had been considered by the Improving Places Select Commission and then referred to Overview and Scrutiny Management Board as part of the pre-scrutiny process. The Board were in support of the recommendations, but requested that the fleet of vehicles used by RMBC be reviewed to ensure that they meet the required regulations, that, on completion of the consultation, the final business case should make clear those points which have been included arising from the consultation, that the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety notify the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board when funding has been received from Government for the initiative, that the Clean Air Zone be kept on the scrutiny work programme and that the outline consultation plan be reported to Improving Places Select Commission.
The Chair confirmed Cabinet would do its best to support all the recommendations as part of the pre-scrutiny process.
Councillor Hoddinott, however, pointed out that there was no regulation specifically on Council vehicles, but took on board the need to look at air quality and contributions in terms of vehicles. Equally in terms of Government funding this had already been received for officer time and research which would be subject to further funding of the mitigation measures.
The Chair pointed out that the measures required were all subject to Government rules and based on a national model. However, the Parkway did cross over the border into Rotherham which meant the Council were mandated to take action where it was identified in the report.
This matrix approach of policy measures would be undertaken and it would show the residents of Rotherham that action was being taken and the Council’s role in fulfilling the policy without resorting to a congestion charge arrangement.
Resolved:- (1) That Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s (RMBC’s) commitment to improve air quality in the Borough and to improve health outcomes for residents be endorsed.
(2) That it be recognised that Rotherham and Sheffield’s air quality challenge is intrinsically connected and therefore approves the development of a joint air quality plan and package of interventions with Sheffield City Council (SCC) to protect and improve the health and wellbeing of people living, working and visiting our areas.
(3) That the evidence and analysis of the air quality challenge across the areas and the most challenging locations which breach legal limits for NO? pollution be supported and noted.
(4) That the proposed mitigating measures to bring Rotherham’s air quality within the legal limit for NO? concentrations in the shortest possible time be approved.
(5) That authority be delegated to the Strategic Director, Regeneration and Environment, in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy and the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, to jointly submit, with Sheffield City Council, the Rotherham and Sheffield Outline Business Case to Government by 31st December, 2018.
(6) That a further report on Rotherham’s clean air proposals be submitted, once Government has assessed the proposals in our Outline Business Case.
(7) That the launch of a statutory consultation in early 2019 on the Borough’s proposals to tackle NO? pollution be approved.