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Council pledge to cut pollution in new clean air plan

Cornwall Council is pledging to improve air quality for residents in a new clean air strategy which includes plans to speed up the switch to ultra-low emission vehicles, cut pollution from wood burners and plant more trees.

The new Clean Air for Cornwall Strategy 2019-2024 also outlines proposals to provide more public electric car charging points and replace the Council’s fleet of diesel vehicles to run on electric-powered or alternative lower emission fuels.

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Plans are linked to the Council’s emerging climate change plan which received unanimous backing from its Cabinet last week.

Among the proposals to help Cornwall strive towards becoming carbon neutral ahead of the Government's national target of 2050 are a Forest for Cornwall which would see carbon-absorbing woodlands being planted across the Duchy.

The Council has recently launched a new interactive map making the results of air quality monitoring more accessible to residents.

It shows that Cornwall’s air quality in residential areas is very good but traffic-related pollution is high along busy stretches of road close to the roadside.

The Council is already taking action in the nine, designated Air Quality Management Areas such as in Bodmin where major roads scheme have improved traffic flow in the town.

The new air strategy highlights issues facing air quality in Cornwall as a whole, for example how vehicles are older than the UK average and likely to be more polluting. 

Diesel cars which emit more polluting nitrogen dioxide causing pollution are also more commonplace in Cornwall than in other parts of the country.

The new Clean Air Strategy outlines:

  • Cornwall Council’s plans to reduce emissions from its own activities and group of companies. This includes looking at how more zero and low emissions can be incorporated into the vehicles fleet, implementing the Council’s vision for 100% of its energy to be provided from renewable sources and introducing energy storage at construction welfare sites rather than running generators.
  • How work to improve air quality will also reduce the impacts of the climate emergency, for example through prioritising the need to consider alternative fuel options such as hydrogen, gas or electric, improving access to public transport and increasing the number of public electric vehicle charging points
  • Health risks to motorists as car drivers can be exposed to twice as much air pollution as pedestrians and nine times more than a cyclist. The report suggests measures that drivers can take to cut pollution, for example, switching off their engine whilst stationery which reduces exposure to pollution for the people in the vehicle behind and closing windows and turning the air intake to recirculate to reduce pollution exposure inside your car.
  • Advice on reducing emissions from solid fuel burners which are considered to be the biggest contributor to particulate pollution in the UK. Tips include only using dry wood and not burning waste.
  • Information on sources of indoor air pollution in homes and workplaces and how to reduce it, for example from cleaning products, furniture and cooking all of which can affect health.
  • Guidance on how plants and trees can be part of the solution to air pollution, for example through the Council’s Green Infrastructure for Growth scheme bringing wildlife-rich spaces to urban areas.

A public consultation on the new air quality strategy is due to be launched later this year.

Rob Nolan, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection, said: “The health of Cornwall residents is of paramount importance to Cornwall Council and improving local air quality is a key priority.  Air quality in Cornwall is generally very good but there are areas where traffic-related levels of pollution need to be improved. 

“The Clean Air Strategy is an essential document for Cornwall Council, our community and our partners. It offers a range of interventions and policies that will contribute to tackling poor air quality and ensure future activities and developments help to continually improve air quality and the wellbeing and sustainability for residents and visitors.

“It is worth noting that traffic pollution hangs in tight pockets on busy roads but reduces considerably with distance away from the road. Our new air quality interactive map can help pedestrians and cyclists find alternative routes away from busy traffic.”

Up-to-date details of air quality monitoring and the interactive map can be found on the Council’s website. 

Posted 29 July, 2019