An Air Quality Action Plan (or AQAP for short) is a plan that sets out the measures being taken to improve air quality in a specifc area and who is responsible for delivering them. City of York Council’s Air Quality Action Plan includes measures to help deliver our Low Emission Strategy, as well as continuing to encourage people to walk, cycle and use public transport.
Air Quality Action Planning in York
City of York Council has previously produced two Air Quality Action Plans (AQAPs) in 2004 and 2006 respectively. These previous plans were primarily modal shift and congestion reduction based plans, with emphasis on reducing vehicle trips across the city.
Despite the introduction of two AQAPs, air quality in York continued to deteriorate between 2004 and 2010. In response, York developed an overarching Low Emission Strategy (LES) in 2012 to tackle the issue. This document was the first of its kind in the UK and set out a new approach to local air quality management based on reducing emissions from all sources, including tailpipe emissions from individual vehicles and encouraging the uptake of alternative fuels and low emission vehicle technologies. The Low Emission Strategy has proved particularly effective at tackling emissions from essential service vehicles such as buses and taxis, which fall outside the scope of trip reduction based modal shift measures.
Modal shift and congestion reduction measures remain fundamental to the delivery of air quality improvement and emission reduction in York. The primary local delivery programmes for these measures are the Local Transport Plan and the i-Travel York programme. These programmes include many measures to encourage the uptake of walking, cycling, and public transport in the city. They are supported by planning policies that ensure sustainable travel is embedded into all new development in York.
City of York Council’s third Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP3), adopted December 2015 , set out how York intends to continue to deliver its ambitious and pioneering overarching Low Emission Strategy (LES) and to work towards becoming an internationally recognised ultra-low emission city. Since the publication of the LES, York has:
- Delivered a fully electric Park & Ride (P&R) site at Poppleton Bar and introduced electric buses across other P&R sites. CYC was awarded £3.3m from DfT’s Low Emission Bus Scheme in 2018 to support delivery of high capacity, fully electric buses and to support charging infrastructure at York’s P&R sites.
- Launched a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) for buses (introduced 31st January 2020). Buses making 5 or more entrances to the city centre CAZ per day are now required to be Ultra Low Emission Buses (ULEB) (Euro VI diesel or electric). A total of £1.65m has been allocated by City of York Council to 5 bus operators to help replace/retrofit 93 buses to CAZ compliant standards.
- Encouraged 25% [170 vehicles] (figure correct as of April 2021) of the taxi fleet to change to low emission alternatives (petrol hybrid); a number of these were converted through CYC’s innovative taxi incentive grant scheme. The latest DEFRA funded low emission taxi grant scheme offers financial support for CYC registered taxi drivers to upgrade their vehicles to low emission versions.
- Implemented an extensive ‘pay as you go’ fast and rapid charge public electric vehicle recharging network. City of York Council’s Executive have also endorsed the ambition that a minimum of 5% of bays in council owned car parks will be charging bays by 2023 (subject to funding). The existing council owned charging estate is currently being updated with the number of fast charging spaces increasing from 40 to 350 and the hardware at all rapid chargers being replaced.
- On 19th March 2020, City of York Council’s Executive agreed to commence the transition to an electric fleet for all vehicles under 3.5 tonne as part of a four year programme. With respect to waste collection, twelve new refuse trucks, including two fully electric vehicles, have been bought by CYC. The new vehicles are expected to reduce fuel costs and pollution output by approximately 16%.
- Been awarded £816,000 from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) after becoming the only Yorkshire location out of eight in the country to achieve ‘Go Ultra Low’ city status. The money is being used to fund a network of charging HyperHubs, providing ultra-fast, reliable and convenient electrical charging.
- Developed Low Emission Planning guidance to accompany policy ENV1 ‘Air Quality’ of the Local Plan. This guidance outlines City of York Council’s design and mitigation expectations for all new developments in the city, including EV charging. The guidance aims to assist developers to improve air quality and lower transport emissions in line with the aims and objectives of the York Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) and Low Emission Strategy (LES).
- Launched an ECO-Stars Fleet Recognition Scheme. The scheme attracted fleet membership from 106 organisations and has provided advice on operational best practice.
- Implemented a package of measures aimed at deterring stationary vehicles from idling, including the use of discretionary powers under the Road Traffic Regulations 2002 to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers who refuse to switch off their engines. A ‘Kick the Habit’ anti-idling awareness-raising campaign was launched in mid-2019, aimed at encouraging people to think about the importance of clean air and the impact that this has on them, their health and those around them. We have also undertaken annual promotional work in relation to anti-idling as part of Clean Air Day activities.
At the same time, York continues to deliver on walking, cycling and public transport improvements, maintaining its national reputation as a leader in sustainable transport.
York already has much to celebrate in relation to reducing emissions and protecting and improving the health of its residents. However, with an increasing population and further development, preventing further emission growth and improving air quality remain significant and difficult challenges for the foreseeable future.
Measures in AQAP3 are intended to build upon (but not replace) the modal shift based measures included in previous AQAPs, and are intended to support other emission reduction measures in the Climate Change Framework and Action Plan (CCFAP) and the Local Transport Plan (LTP3). York will commence consultation on a revised Local Transport Plan (LTP4) and updated Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP4) during 2021.