The Cardiff Council has requested the Welsh government for £32 million to reduce air pollution as part of the Clean Air Project.
As part of the Clean Air Project, the modelling of more than 9000 roads in Cardiff was done to identify the most polluted areas. Caro Wild, Riverside Councillor and cabinet member for strategic planning and transport says, “Given the current projections, it is feared that the Castle Street would likely break the legal limits by 2021. Westgate Street is also of concern.”
“We are looking to restrict the space available for cars in central Cardiff, the reason being that the city was designed for cars, not for people to move around. We have to create a conducive environment,” acknowledged Wild.
When asked whether charging Clean Air Zones (CAZ) can be more helpful as compared to other measures in addressing air pollution, he said, “According to government guidance, the charging CAZs can only be established when other measures fail to offer compliance.
“Such zones would enable the council to charge car owners driving polluting vehicles to pay a fee to drive through the area. Our findings suggest that other measures would help to ensure compliance and keep Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels well within the safe limits.”
When asked if the UK government could explore the possibility of taxing cars to further encourage the culture of public transport, Wild said, “I don’t think they would consider increasing taxes on cars”
“We are eventually planning to build fully dedicated cycleways and the work has started on Senghenydd road and Saint Andrews Crescent by the church.”
On the question of improving the urban forest cover of Cardiff to combat air pollution, he told, “That would go parallel with the clean air strategy, as the proposed £32 million investment aims to achieve legal compliance by 2021. We believe the Welsh government would make funds available for this development.”
“On the other hand, people calling for extreme measures on air pollution need to be respectful of the fact that for some people cars are needed,” he concluded.
Dr. David Clubb, an expert in sustainable energy and the managing partner of Afallen – a sustainability start-up said regarding the air quality in Cardiff, “Local people have to bear the impacts of increasing air pollution and the associated health cost. These personal impacts are particularly felt by the poor and the most vulnerable in our society, such as the very young, the elderly and those with existing health problems.”
He went on to say, “The ambition is more limited than I would have liked. But citizens are partly responsible because they don’t prioritise issues around public health, and are generally poorly informed and not well-engaged in such discussions. Cardiff Council has come up with the lowest cost possible solution to meet their obligations which I don’t think is sufficiently forward-thinking.”
“The Council has not been able to robustly apply the principle of fairness under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. We should be aiming for far better, aspiring for Cardiff to have the cleanest air in the UK. However, the council also exists within budgetary constraints, and I sympathise with the institutional and financial limitations.”
David suggested for greater ambition by having more traffic-free areas, banning motorized vehicles from central Cardiff and environmental awareness among Cardiffians. “A car-free day is an opportunity to make people what it feels like when cars are not around. This creates a discussion around how we would like our spaces to be,” he added.
The Clean Air Project for Cardiff was conceived when ClientEarth won a high court case against the Welsh government and the UK regarding excess Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels. This led the Welsh government to have an agreement with ClientEarth to bring the NO2 levels down within the ‘shortest time possible’.
The Welsh government advised the Cardiff Council to conduct a study on ways to reducing NO2 levels, after which the council proposed a multi-million pound plan to curb NO2 to safe levels and reaching compliance by 2021.
Reduction of NO2 levels is important as it leads to over 220 deaths in Cardiff and Vale Health Board area aged 30 and over.
While devising the project, a public health Wales consultant – Dr. Tom Porter assisted the council to make sure that all the proposed measures are public health friendly.