More than 4,000 residents say they back plans for a chargeable clean air zone in Southampton, which could bill commercial vehicles up to £100 a day. As previously reported the move could be catastrophic for Isle of Wight businesses.
It comes after the Southampton City Council released the responses to its 12-week Clean Air Zone consultation, which 9,309 residents took part in.
More than half agree with charging
As part of the consultation, 7,803 people took part in the questionnaire, with 4,340 (56 per cent of the 7,750 that answered the question) agreeing with the council’s “preferred option” of a city-wide vehicle charging zone was the right way to go.
And of the 7,745 who were asked if they believed that this would be an effective way to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels “within the shortest possible time” across the city, 4,027 (52 per cent) agreed.
Concern over air quality
Residents also overwhelmingly said that the city has an air quality problem, with 5,812 of 7,750 respondents (75 per cent) agreeing.
As reported, the local authority has been tasked by central government to reduce its nitrogen dioxide amount to the EU-imposed level of below 40 micrograms per cubic air metre by 2022. It is currently 42 micrograms.
If it fails to do so, the council will be billed for the hefty fine the European Union will impose on Westminster.
Breakdown of responses
Breaking down the 9,309 responses, 7,803 completed the questionnaire, 996 commented on social media, 510 sent letters or emails to the authority (of which 50 were businesses).
The council also says that in addition to written responses to the consultation, there were a number of public engagements and meetings in which verbal feedback was provided. In total, around 1,000 people were engaged in this way.
Civic chiefs say these responses will now be used to complete a plan that will be sent off to central government on 31st January for approval.
Leggett: Public feedback to help inform plan
Southampton City Council’s green city member, Councillor Steve Leggett, said:
“The scale of the public reaction to the consultation confirms that people living, working and visiting Southampton share our commitment to improving the quality of air in the city.
“The feedback provides us with a clear understanding of what people think is important – including the impact on public health, transport and the economy. Combined with further technical analysis, public feedback will play a key role in informing our plan.”
Delay in sending to Westminster
The “unprecedented” amount of responses also means, as previous reported, that final plans will not be sent to Westminster until the end of January, having previously been earmarked to be posted this year.
New Forest District Council, which Southampton is working with as part of the plans, will send it report to central government on 31st December.
Both authority’s will scrutinise and debate their respective plans before they are sent.
Final decision this month
The district council will hold its Environment Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 13th December, and then make a final decision at Cabinet on 18th December.
Southampton will follow this a month later with its Overview and Scrutiny Panel on 16th January, and then a special Cabinet meeting on 22nd January, which will be held in the Guildhall.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed