Slough, like many urban areas in the UK, experiences elevated levels of air pollution which have a measurable impact on the health of the local population. While there are several factors contributing to our local air quality, including heating and energy production and the cross-boundary transportation of pollution, the emissions from road transport vehicles are the most significant source.
Slough Borough Council (SBC) has designated 4 Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) due to elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) which breach the EU Limit Value (annual average NO2) and where there is relevant exposure of residents. The AQMA are located around the M4, Tuns Lane, Town Centre/A4 and Brands Hill. Slough has an extensive air quality monitoring network that has shown some improvement in air quality in certain areas while other areas have either remained stubbornly elevated or deteriorated slightly. Levels in Langley may require the designation of a new AQMA.
While levels of particulate matter (PM) do not exceed EU Limit Values, the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) shows that levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) in 2015 accounted for 19.1 premature deaths per 100,000 people in Slough compared with a rate of 11.7 for the South East. The health impacts of air pollution are becoming more apparent with evidence showing effects such as heart attacks, strokes, low birth weight babies and impaired lung and brain development. The World Health Organisation (WHO) categorises diesel exhaust fumes as carcinogenic.
The SBC Five Year Plan and Wellbeing Strategy commit us to improving health outcomes in the Borough and we have developed a Low Emission Strategy (LES) which will support the new Transport Strategy in targeting reductions in vehicle emissions by accelerating the uptake of cleaner vehicles and technologies, that are capable of improving air quality and health and also contribute to sustainable growth as part of the transition to a low emission economy.
The LES development has been supported by Government funding and includes practical policies and measures that are in line with best practice and Government policies. The Government has published ‘UK plans for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations’, which include a national Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Framework.
The LES comprises sections outlining the reasons why we are taking action (Evidence for Change), the measures that we can take as a Council to reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality and health (Creating a Low Emission Future: Leading by Example), a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Framework for Slough that we can deliver in partnership with key stakeholders to improve the emissions of buses and freight vehicles, while encouraging the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEV) through a Slough Electric Vehicle Plan. A Delivery Plan will detail how we can communicate key messages through our Public Health team, set roles, responsibilities and timescales for delivery while monitoring implementation and updating the strategy when necessary.
The LES builds on significant activity in the Borough in demonstrating leadership in Creating a Low Emission Future:
- SBC has developed extensive cycling infrastructure in the Borough, including cycle hire facilities
- SBC has secured £1.5m Access Funding to encourage sustainable modal shift through the ‘Better By’ programme
- SBC has successfully introduced electric vehicle charge points in the town centre that show significant use
- We have successfully introduced charge points at Council premises as part of the My Electric Avenue project which allows staff to use electric vehicles
- We have introduced electric pool cars and e-bikes as part of the Slough Fleet Challenge to reduce ‘grey’ vehicle emissions and costs as part of our travel hierarchy policy
- Slough has the 3rd largest number of plug-in vehicles registered per local authority with over 4,000.
- SBC Waste & Recycling Fleet will meet the latest European (Euro) Standards by 1st December 2017 with plans to look at alternative fuels to diesel as part of the next fleet replacement cycle. The SBC appraisal of alternative fuels and technologies using whole life costs (WLC) has been published as best practice by the Local Government Association (LGA).
- SBC is reviewing van and light commercial vehicle operations with a view to procuring the cleanest vehicles while transitioning to ULEVs where feasible
- SBC is consulting on new emission standards for taxis, including both CAZ standards and future ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) standards
- SBC has secured £157,000 in Government funding to develop a dedicated, rapid charging network to support high growth in plug-in taxis
- We will support the cleanest emission standards for vehicles through Social Value procurement criteria and relevant contract
- We will introduce Air Quality Planning Guidance in line with national planning policy and guidance to support the Local Plan, requiring mitigation to be integrated into the design stage of new developments
- Electric charge points will be required on new developments where practical
As part of the Slough Clean Air Zone (CAZ) Framework we will:
Raise awareness of vehicle emissions and their impact on air quality and health
- Look at the feasibility of introducing a CAZ in Slough which could potentially set emission standards for taxis, buses, coaches, lorries and vans
- Develop a low emissions pathway to 2025 in partnership with local bus operators
- Promote the development of alternative refuelling infrastructure for buses and freight vehicles
- Provide co-ordination in supporting the uptake of ULEVs and developing charging infrastructure to support growth through the Slough Electric Vehicle Plan, including the introduction of a Borough-wide Electric Car Club
- Work in partnership with Heathrow to develop connected ultra-low emission hubs and corridors
- Work in partnership with Highways England to reduce the impact of emissions from vehicles on the M4 motorway
Central to the delivery of the LES will be the development and implementation of an effective Communications Plan, in partnership with Public Health, which will raise public awareness and support stakeholder engagement through key messaging about vehicle emissions and actions that can be taken to tackle the problems we face. SBC will work with key stakeholder partners to look at creating a Slough Clean Air Recognition Scheme to promote and reward activity to reduce road transport emissions in the community.
As part of developing and promoting the Strategy, Slough Borough Council will be using the £1.5m of revenue support awarded by the DfT Access Fund. In order to achieve the set goals, SBC will initiate a series of activities, documents and programs aimed at encouraging and engaging businesses and the general public to help implement the scheme.
We will be committing to the following initiatives over the next 3 years:
- Engage with 30,000 employees across businesses and organisations in order to achieve mode shift in the borough
- Support 3,000 unemployed people access employment, education and training opportunities
- Encourage 15,000 pupils to take up sustainable modes of transport
- Engage residents across the borough and from areas with the highest health deprivation indices in Slough
Other community engagement events and awareness campaigns, initiated by the Sustainable Transport Team, including a number of sustainable travel events at key locations and within schools and businesses, will be rolling out during Spring/Summer 2018, such as:
- Cycle Training and Scooter Training for Children and Adults across the borough
- Group Cycle Rides on leisure and commuter routes around the borough
- Dr Bikes - free bicycle checks, minor repairs and maintenance advice for members of the public, school and employers
- Journey Planning for jobseekers, youths seeking education and training opportunities
- Bike Loans to disadvantaged families and community groups
- Cycling and Walking competitions, giveaways and competitive events
- Travel Planning advice for schools and businesses
- Targeted road safety awareness and advice
- Promoting mode-shift to car sharing, passenger transport and cycling and walking
- Advising businesses on implementing cycle to work schemes and achieving travel plan targets
- Providing matched funding to businesses to implement sustainable transport facilities such as cycle parking, shower facilities etc.
- Access to and promotion of the cycle hire scheme
- Production and distribution of information on our activities, infrastructure, routes and events
- Wayfinding totems to advise members of the public and highlight keys attractions in Slough
The key aim of the Communication Plan is to enable the Local Authority to adopt a robust and effective local approach, that will complement the government's National Strategy.
The communication plan will focus on both short term and immediate messaging for peaks in air pollution, as well as longer term engagement strategies to include the local community. It will also tie in with key local and national campaigns, which both directly and indirectly lead to a reduction in congestion and emissions. For example nation walk to work day, cycle to work day, Slough half marathon and national clean air day.
As part of the customer facing communication work we will also be integrating an air quality section to the new Slough Public Health ‘One You’ website. This page will serve to be the community facing source of information for everything to do with air quality. This will include keys facts and information, alerts, downloadable resources and campaign related information. It can also be used to inform vehicle users of the measures they can take to reduce their emissions by travel planning and vehicle choice.
Short term and immediate public health messages will enable the public to reduce their personal exposure by avoiding areas of higher pollution; this is beneficial for the general population and those with existing health conditions. Examples of successful implementation of health communication include air quality services such as airTEXT, airALERT and ‘Know and Respond’. All of these services provide free information about the quality of outdoor air they breathe. The consideration of measures that foster awareness of the effects of air pollution in the local population can enable local residents to make informed decisions on how to reduce their exposure and if required, to better manage their health conditions.
The communication plan within the Slough strategy will follow the six principles for public communication about air pollution based on qualitative research in 2013 for DEFRA.
DEFRA six principles for public communication
- Explaining what air pollution is: Using information about what particulate matter and other air pollutants are made of and where they can go to get air pollution onto the local agenda – not statistics about health consequences.
- Helping people understand how they can protect themselves: Without raising public concern about air pollution unless there is clear and ample information to satisfy people’s desire to do something to reduce their exposure.
- Explaining the health impacts: Focusing on what is known for certain about the health consequences of air pollution.
- Making it local: Talking about air pollution as a problem linked to specific places within Slough, not just as a general problem of the atmosphere.
- Explaining how individuals can make a difference: Keeping the focus on practical improvements – not long-term solutions.
- Demonstrating leadership and empower communities, instead of simply expecting individuals to change their behaviour. Utilising the council, as an exemplar organisation to support others to follow in our steps.