Councillor Paul Turpin writes ….
Sheffield City Council announced a pause on plans for the citywide Clean Air Zone (CAZ) citing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore little was done to support Clean Air Day locally on the 8th of October. While it is important that we make room and adapt to our ‘new normal’, the lockdown must not be used to delay or roll back the essential action needed for the city, which declared a Climate Emergency in 2019, but is yet to implement significant changes.
Green Councillors raised concerns about the Clean Air Zone proposal back in 2019 with no consideration on the effect of private vehicles on air quality and the disproportionate impact on small local businesses. We noted then that the very need for a CAZ in a city the size of Sheffield was an admission of policy failure at local and national level. So to see an already flawed plan being halted, at a time when we desperately need to be building infrastructure that works for the good of all, is cause for concern.
Air pollution already prematurely kills 500 people per year in Sheffield, with more than 28,000 deaths across the UK, making air quality a key issue for public health. These figures don’t exist in isolation either, with shortened lifespan and exacerbated health conditions for many, in addition to recorded fatalities. COVID-19 has already shown us how environmental quality, and inequality, plays a part in public health.
It isn’t enough to claim a short-term drop in emissions due to the lockdown as ‘progress’ – in fact postponing the CAZ has put the council in breach of its legal requirement to address the issue. If SCC are serious about tackling toxic air quality it’s imperative that, rather than putting off any action, they make a clear commitment and take full advantage of the £40 million in government grants available.
Sheffield is well placed to be ahead of the curve. We welcome innovations around walking and cycling infrastructure put in place during the lockdown. Now is the time to expand that program, to meet the target of being carbon neutral by 2030 and help small local businesses to reduce emissions.
Councillor Paul Turpin
Gleadless Valley Green Party