Clean air zone

Like many other urban areas, Cambridge has an air-quality problem – there’s a lot of transport-related nitrogen dioxide pollution.

Cambridge is an important centre for employment, education and tourism, leading to an above-average number of vehicles on the roads. And the nearby A14 is used by a lot of freight traffic, much of which comes into the city on the trunk roads.

We’ve designated the city centre as an air quality management area, because of the high average level of nitrogen dioxide.

But Cambridge is growing rapidly, and a further increase in traffic could easily cause an unacceptable rise in air pollution. So we and our partners are looking at the feasibility of introducing a clean air zone in Cambridge.

A clean air zone is an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality. This can deliver improved health benefits and support economic growth.

In a clean air zone, there is a focus on reducing emissions of pollutants and carbon emissions. Any improvements made to air quality should be designed to last for a long time. Pollution should not be increased by growth in population, new buildings or changes in land use.

  • Clean air zones reduce public exposure to polluted air and pollutant emissions, including nitrogen dioxide.
  • Clean air zones improve the quality of life for those people who live, work, and study in the city, as well as visitors.
  • Clean air zones reduce the number of people affected by health conditions caused by poor air quality, reducing pressure on local health services.
  • Clean air zones provide an incentive to use cleaner and active modes of transport, with increased health benefits.

Feasibility study

We’re running a feasibility study to investigate whether introducing one or more clean air zones in Cambridge would help reduce air pollution. It’s being funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, and the county council are taking part as the authority responsible for roads.

Among the issues we’ll consider are:

  • Location – We’ll consider which areas have low air quality and what vehicles drive to or through them. And we’ll investigate how other nearby areas might be affected by restricting vehicular access within clean air zones.
  • Vehicular access – There are different classes of clean air zone, to determine what types of vehicle are allowed in them. We’ll assess each class and consider whether it’s appropriate for Cambridge and whether it would deliver improvements to air quality.
  • Whether to charge for access to the zones – We’ll assess whether or not to introduce a charge to enter any implemented zones. Any revenue raised by a charge would be used to fund the scheme itself and other local transport improvements.
  • Effects on residents – We’ll consider the health, social and economic impacts any zones might have on the people living in them.

We’ll also consider the impact of any other measures being assessed or implemented to reduce pollution.

Implementation of any clean air zone would be phased to allow residents and businesses make arrangements to comply with any restrictions imposed on them.

The government’s clean air zone framework provides clear guidance on what types of vehicles can enter each class of zone. Zero-emission vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles operating in zero-emission mode are unrestricted.

Other measures

Clean air zoning is just one measure we and our partners are looking at to improve air quality in Cambridge.

We’re also considering how to improve cycling and walking facilities. And we’re working with local taxi firms and bus operators to encourage the use of ultra-low and zero emission vehicles.

We’ll consider the influence of these and other measures on air quality in Cambridge. And we’ll assess whether the addition of a clean air zone would complement them or whether they are already sufficient.

Next steps

We’ll finish the feasibility study this summer.

We expect a number of proposals to emerge – we’ll run a public consultation before acting on any of them. This is likely to happen towards the end of 2018.

How would you rate your online experience?