Reducing vehicle emissions in South Oxfordshire

Released on December 9, 2015

Residents across South Oxfordshire will have a chance to give their thoughts on a range of ideas to reduce harmful emissions across the district.

Air quality problems in three towns in the district means that some drastic actions may be necessary to stop vehicle emissions causing harm to public health, according to experts working on behalf of South Oxfordshire District Council.

A specially commissioned report by Ricardo Energy and Environment has set out a range of possible actions that could help reduce the harmful effects of vehicle emissions particularly in Watlington, Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames.

Early in the New Year the council will publish a draft version of the report, called 'A Low Emissions Strategy for South Oxfordshire'.  Residents will then have the chance to read it and let the council know what they think of the suggested actions.

Cllr Tony Harbour, cabinet member for Environmental Health at South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “The experts have told us that - if we’re going to do anything that is at all effective - we should take actions that some might see as drastic.  I can imagine that these might be unpopular with those directly affected, but we need to consider the health and well-being of the whole community.”

The draft Low Emissions Strategy is one of the actions in the council’s Air Quality Action Plan, work which was commissioned as part of a DEFRA grant bid to cover the three Air Quality Management Areas.  It sets out a range of ideas that could have a positive effect on air quality in each of the three towns, and across the district as whole and explains exactly how much difference each action would have – some would be more effective than others.

Cllr Harbour said: “The causes of the air quality problems in the three towns are different – it means the actions to try and help will also be different. Some actions seem more drastic than others, but those are the ones that will tend to have the biggest impact so I’d urge residents to consider how much effect the actions will have when they’re letting us know what they think.”

The Low Emissions Strategy includes suggestions like restricting access to Wallingford bridge to certain vehicles at certain times, encouraging electric vehicle use, or more enforcement of existing vehicle restrictions. It’s important to know that some actions are more expensive than others, and the report compares the cost of each action with the expected benefits.

The council would investigate the exact details of how the actions could be put into place once residents have said whether or not they support them in principle. The council will be inviting residents to give their ideas on the best ways the actions could be implemented, as well as suggesting ideas of their own.

Most of the actions that would have a significant effect on vehicle emissions are things the district council doesn’t have direct control over, so it would work closely with other organisations to see how the actions would work – these organisations are being invited to comment on the draft Low Emissions Strategy as well.

Reducing vehicle emissions, and investigating a Low Emissions Strategy were amongst the things the council has committed to doing in its overall Air Quality Action Plan, which addresses the problems right across South Oxfordshire.