Agenda item

Agenda item

Air Quality Action Plan

Cabinet, at its meeting on 09 September, will consider a report on the Air Quality Action Plan. This item provides the Committee with an opportunity to comment on the report and make recommendations to Cabinet if it wishes.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford; and Mai Jarvis, Environmental Quality Team Manager have been invited to attend for this item.



Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, introduced the report. The Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) fulfilled a statutory duty. It also provided the Council with an opportunity to demonstrate its desire for a more aspirational approach to the delivery of clean air than was expected by the Government. The need for a robust approach to air pollution was a matter of social justice given the profound impact of poor air quality on everyone, but in particular, on some members of the community including young, elderly and minority groups. The Council already had a good track record of measures to tackle air pollution, working in close partnership with the County Council where necessary and was well placed to address the target for the reduction of air pollution set out in the report. The introduction of a Zero Emission Zone, and “Connecting Oxford” for example, would be critical factors in the achievement of the target.

The Committee welcomed this important report. BAME members of the community were likely to be particularly badly affected by poor air quality and it was suggested that this should be made more explicit.

Central to the AQAP was the objective of achieving a “local annual mean NO2 target of 30 micrograms by 2025”. It was agreed that this should be defined more clearly. While this new target was admirable, sight should not be lost of the current target of 40 micrograms which had yet to be achieved.

The AQAP referred to both NO2 and NOX emissions with targets set in the former but measured in some places by reference to the latter. Some clarification of the distinction and relevance of the two would be helpful.

No sanctions would be available for failure to meet the Council’s self-imposed target, but the Council would continue to press for measures (and funding) to deal with air  pollution from, for example, canal boats burning solid fuel..

There was  concern that at time when the Council was facing significant financial challenge,  the success of the Plan was dependent to some extent on Council funding. Cllr Hayes was however confident that the plan was achievable and realistic, noting the success in attracting external funding, such as that received for the improvement of the city’s buses and the commitment of Oxford Direct Services to the electrification of its significant vehicle fleet.

The plan would be subject to public consultation and the Committee was keen that this should be as inclusive and wide ranging as possible. It was confirmed that the consultation would include a questionnaire and that good use would be made of the Council’s good relationship with schools (and therefore pupils) in the City. Young people were some of the most powerful advocates of the importance of clean air.

Air quality measurements were available for all to see on the Councils website.  The ability for members of the public, eventually, to see measures of air pollution at a local street level would be desirable and would be worked towards. Currently there was capacity to measure air quality at 75 sites in the city at any one time and this equipment could be (and was) moved to different locations. Good knowledge of air pollution levels across the whole city and not just the centre was important.

The introduction of more charging points for domestic electric vehicles would be of some benefit. Cllr Hayes noted however the potentially critical modal shift from private car to bus use in the City. This was something which had the potential to make a profound difference to both congestion and air pollution.

It was AGREED to make the following recommendations to Cabinet:

1.    That the Council amends its action plan to make specific reference to the particular negative impacts experienced by BAME community members as well as other risk factors such as disability and low incomes, as well as the particular negative outcomes experienced by those intersecting multiple risk factors.

2.    That the Council makes the achievement of the legal 40 µg/m3 of NO2 as a milestone in its plan clearer.

3.    That the Council, in its efforts to increase the number of electric vehicle charging points around the city, does not overlook provision for lower-income areas of the City.

4.    That the Council oversees the implementation of an electric taxi service to replace the Pick me Up service.

5.    That the Council works with ODS to bring forward the plans for the electrification of the ODS fleet

6.    That the Council provides an explanatory note or glossary reference to explain its use within the Action Plan of NO and NO2.

7.    That the Council provides within its plan a definition of the term ‘Local Annual Mean’.

8.    That the Council will continue to think of new and imaginative ways of increasing engagement with the issue of air pollution, especially amongst children and young people, and to increase participation in the Council’s consultation on the Air Quality Action Plan.

9.    That in its communications plan the Council broadens the story it tells about the impact of air pollution away from the City Centre, including people and locations from across Oxford.

10. That the Council continues to employ its best endeavours in working with its partners to realise the plans for the Zero Emissions Zone and Connecting Oxford.


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