New Air Quality Strategy for Ashford approved
Ashford Borough Council has approved a new strategy for 2019/20 and beyond to maintain and improve the borough’s air quality. The new Air Quality Strategy will see a number of actions implemented, including the establishment of a Green Taxi Scheme.
Currently, air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to public health in the UK. It is the fourth greatest threat to public health after cancer, heart disease and obesity, and causes more harm than passive smoking.
While Ashford’s pollutant concentrations are below the national limit, data from Public Health England suggests that air pollution is a contributory factor in up to 50 deaths in Ashford each year.
To tackle this, the new strategy has been devised with three main priorities:
- To ensure the council leads the way, modelling good practice.
- Working with our partners to secure their help and support in safeguarding air quality in the borough.
- Enable lasting behavioural change - making sure we all take the steps we need to in order to deliver change.
The success of this strategy will rest on us all working together to safeguard our air quality now and for future generations.
The Green Taxi Scheme
To deliver the strategy a number of new initiatives will be implemented, which will complement several existing projects that are taking place throughout 2019/20. One of which will be a new Green Taxi Scheme.
This measure has been designed to encourage the uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles within our taxi and private hire fleet, as follows:
- The scheme will subsidise in full the annual licensing fee for green taxis for the first three years they are on the fleet.
- The scheme will apply defined criteria to what a ‘green’ vehicle is (based on pre-existing criteria developed by other relevant schemes).
- The scheme will provide for ten vehicles per annum for three years, and will operate on a first come, first served basis.
- Funding requirements from Section 106 have been confirmed, and will use the license fee for 2019/20.
Alongside this, the council will also be seeking to increase the number of pilot community transport schemes in 2019/20 following the successful launch of the Rolvenden Rocket in July 2018. Funding for these schemes is currently being identified.
Ashford’s environmental achievements
2018 was a hugely successful year for Ashford in terms of the environment. A significant amount of work has been undertaken across council services to improve and maintain our environmental achievements, resulting in the following:
- Ashford was named top of the league in Kent for the fourth year in a row, with the highest percentage of household waste recycled and composted, and the lowest residual waste tonnages per household. This places Ashford Borough Council 27th in the entire country for recycling – up from 35th place in 2017.
- Ashford’s garden waste recycling service continues to grow and has more than 15,400 customers – a growth of nearly 1,000 customers in the past year.
- Create music festival organisers committed to reducing plastic waste at 2018’s festival in support of our recycling commitments. Key changes included the use of paper straws instead of plastic, the use of PolyEthylene Terephthalate (PET) 100% recyclable bottles and the provision of recycling bins accordingly and the introduction of a reusable cup scheme.
- We continue to invest in our parks and open spaces. Bridgefield Park and Play Area was opened in 2018 – the first of its kind to be commissioned in the borough for over 20 years.
Moving into 2019, a broad range of environment-focused activity is scheduled, with highlights including:
- The Year of the Environment: 2019 has been identified on a national level as the Year of the Environment. The council is taking action is support of this and will be delivering various events, campaigns and initiatives throughout the year to encourage greater recycling, a focus on keeping Ashford clean, supporting residents when it comes to developing allotments and growing fresh produce, encouraging residents to use parks and open spaces in the borough and ensuring that active transport is made a priority.
- Cycling and Walking Strategy 2019-2029: This strategy brings together policies and related actions to promote cycling and walking and the delivery of related infrastructure. As well as improving current infrastructure throughout the borough, the strategy also seeks to increase cycling and walking participation by promoting safer cycling, active promotion of cycling and walking and the support for cycling and walking based tourism.
Speaking of this continued success and plans for the future, an Ashford Borough Council spokesperson said: “2018’s achievements show the excellent work that happens across the council to deliver best quality environmental services and standards.
“We are looking forward to seeing the successful delivery of the Air Quality Strategy and the safeguarding of our air quality for all residents, especially our younger generations.”