Sheffield Needs Cleaner Air to Improve Health

An article in Sheffield Telegraph by SCCRAG Chair Peter Sephton, April 20, 2017:

SCCRAG represents people living in the city centre, so air quality is a priority. My three-year-old grand-daughter suffers breathing problems and when Sheffield’s air pollution is bad, her attacks are frightening.

A recent investigation by the Guardian revealed hundreds of thousands of children exposed to illegal levels of diesel pollution near schools and nurseries. Admissions to hospital rise on high-pollution days. Premature deaths in the elderly and the sick increase due to diseases of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.

Latterly diesel engines were encouraged as cleaner than petrol, but both types of engines emit particulates and harmful gases. Partic­ulates get into our bodies, lungs, bloodstream and from recent studies, probably have relevance to cancer and de­mentia. Within urban areas, the pollutant contributions from road transport are par­ticularly high and in London can reach 8o per cent. Shef­field has blackspots where pollutant levels have hardly changed over 10 years.

We all need to do some­thing and the first challenge is public information. Where are the places we should try not to drive? How clean is the air around each school? Can we display local pollution levels, like a roadside moni­tor? London sets the pace – its 2020 Ultra Low Emission Zone is a central area within which all vehicles will meet strict standards or pay a daily charge to travel.

How can Sheffield encourage changes? How do we reduce emissions from cars, taxis, buses and trucks?

Stagecoach introduced some hybrid buses. What progress on pressing others to go all-hybrid? Let’s offer free parking for electric cars, encourage charging stations and fix a maximum parking rate of £1 for hybrids.

Work with operators, suppliers and car distributors to agree deals. Sadly Sheffield’s recent Go Low Ultra Cities Scheme bid for £10 million failed because it ‘lacked ambition on delivery’. Ten cities received a share of £14m to fund electric taxi charging points. West Yorkshire got £2 million but frustratingly Sheffield did not even submit a bid. Our city once led in cleaning the air. Let’s devise a strong plan, seek government funds and make ourselves much healthier.