Report number: OAS/WS/22/016
Hi [Councillor Julia Wakelam arrived at 5.20pm during the consideration of this item, and prior to the vote taking place.]
The Committee received report number OAS/WS/22/016, which was requested by Councillors Diane Hind and Julia Wakelam following updates on air quality and anti-idling campaigns reported to the Committee on 11 November 2021.
Prior to this report being prepared, a scope was agreed with Councillors Hind and Wakelam, attached at Appendix A to this report, setting out key lines of enquiry; outcomes; approach; information required; resources and support and timetable and key dates.
The report contained detailed information on air quality in West Suffolk; vehicle idling and air quality; enforcement powers; a summary of anti-idling research and best practice; West Suffolk enforcement implications and costs; existing air quality actions; electric vehicles and options and recommendations.
The Committee considered the report and the options provided in detail and asked questions to which comprehensive responses were provided. In particular discussions were held on traffic systems, poorly managed road works and the need for Highways to re-examine the flow of traffic lights; education and more work needed on appropriate idling signage and social media campaigns for example advertising on buses, digital boards; omissions from electric vehicles via their braking systems; raising air quality concerns with businesses and Cambridge park and ride.
In response to a question raised by Councillor Diane Hind relating to paragraph 2.4 of the report and the World Health Organisation (WHO) targets, officers explained that the WHO had revised their air quality targets, which included a number of interim targets set as part of their guidelines. The Council had to meet the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) law and explained that it would be difficult for the Council to deviate outside of the legal framework.
In response to a question raised regarding taxis idling in Newmarket High Street, officers advised that the Council had an Anti-Idling Policy and work had been carried out with taxi drivers regarding idling. However, if this had started again, officers would be happy to revisit and provide advice to taxi drivers.
Councillor Julia Wakelam thanked officers for the report. However, she felt the evidence provided in the report was partial and not peer reviewed, and every small reduction in pollution was a reduction. She understood the issues around costs for implementing enforcement but stated that idling in St Johns Street, Bury St Edmunds was an issue. She then explained that she objected to the idling exemptions regarding demisting windscreens. Councillor Wakelam advised that she supported options 2 and 3 in the report and suggested a small budget for school education.
In response the Environment Officer explained that ten workshops at schools would be held in the Spring term in 2023 with Suffolk County Council and would be promoted nearer the time. Work around idling had to be proportionate against air quality.
Councillor Robert Everitt attended the meeting as the Chair of the Bury St Edmunds Air Quality Residents Group and wished to thank Councillors Diane Hind and Julia Wakelam for bringing vehicle idling to the Committee. He felt the Committee had made valid points during its debate and agreed that to reduce idling it was about more education.
Councillor Andy Drummond, Cabinet Member for Regulatory and Environment informed the Committee that he was happy to work with the communications team to develop communications with the local press around promoting the “rest button” in vehicles and to highlight how much it was costing people whilst idling.
Councillor Peter Stevens, Cabinet Member for Operations thanked officers for the comprehensive report and options, and the interesting detailed debate carried out by the Committee on all the options presented.
Councillor Hind informed the Committee that she had listened and was disappointed at first regarding the outcome regarding enforcement but agreed that education was key in reducing idling as well as social media events. She advised that she was reluctant to support options 2 and 3 but would propose the recommendations subject to additional wording being included at option 3 in that education was not just for schools, but should also include the general public with signs, leaflets and more social media. This was duly seconded by Councillor Julia Wakelam, and with the vote being unanimous it was:
RECOMMENDED: That Cabinet endorses
1. Option 2: Civil enforcement officers continue to provide informal advice and guidance to drivers as part of their day-to-day activities; and
2. Option 3: The Council continues to undertake general air quality improvement work, focusing on vehicle idling where proportionate, including education not just in schools but also includes the general public, signs, leaflets and social media.