York leads the way in improving air quality

Ahead of this year’s Clean Air Day, York’s Lib Dem councillors have highlighted the pioneering work carried out over the last 8 years to tackle emissions and improve air quality across the city.


York’s Low Emission Strategy (LES) has proved effective at tackling emissions from essential service vehicles such as buses, taxis and HGVs, as the city met its air quality target for all pollutants in 2020. This continues the general downward trend in NO2 concentrations monitored across the city since 2012.

As work continues towards becoming an internationally recognised ultra-low emission city, Councillor Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change, is highlighting the need to hold on to the improvements achieved over the last year.

Councillor Paula Widdowson commented: “Throughout lockdown we have all seen a major improvement in air quality in the city. With people returning back to pre-lockdown habits and car usage, it now more important than ever to build on the momentum and continue investing in initiatives and measures, which would help improve air quality for the benefit of our communities and generations to come. Cleaner air must be a lasting legacy of the pandemic.”

Over the course of the LES project, all of the Air Quality Management Areas - bar the city centre - have seen such significant improvements in their air quality that they no longer qualify to be part of the scheme.

Since the publication of the Strategy, York has:

• Delivered 33 fully electric double deckers for five out of six Park & Ride (P&R) routes with diesel Euro 6 buses at Rawcliffe P&R, supported by charging infrastructure.
• Launched a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for buses (January 2020). Buses making 5 or more entrances to the city centre CAZ per day are required to be Ultra Low Emission Buses (ULEB) (Euro VI diesel or electric).
• Encouraged 25% [170 vehicles] (as of April 2021) of York taxi fleet to change to low emission alternatives (petrol hybrid); a number of these were converted through CYC’s innovative taxi incentive grant scheme.
• Implemented an extensive ‘pay as you go’ fast and rapid charge public electric vehicle recharging network.
• Agreed to move to electric for all council vehicles under 3.5 tonnes.
• Been awarded £816,000 from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) after becoming the only Yorkshire location out of eight in the country to achieve ‘Go Ultra Low’ city status. The money is being used to fund a network of charging HyperHubs, providing ultra-fast, reliable and convenient electrical charging.
• Developed Low Emission Planning guidance to accompany the Local Plan to reduce emissions from planning and development.
• Launched the ‘Kick the Habit’ anti-idling awareness-raising campaign encouraging people to think about the importance of clean air and the impact that this has on them, their health and those around them
• Developed a new online Air Quality Hub.
• Began the development of the city’s new 194-acre Community Woodland, which is predicted to absorb approximately 300-400 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per hectare during the first 50 years of creation.

Cllr Paula Widdwoson, added: “While the Council is focussing on longer term policies, we all must work together to improve air quality in the city. Even smaller changes to our daily lives can make a big difference, and Clean Air Day is a great opportunity to help spread this message.

“We have an urgent need to cut all types of emissions causing climate change as well as reducing harmful vehicle pollution, which especially affects children and the elderly. I would encourage everyone; those who live, work and visit York, to get involved and learn about how we can all make our air cleaner.”

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