Posted: Tue 21st Mar 2023

New Bill will give Welsh Government greater powers to tackle air and noise pollution

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Mar 21st, 2023

Laws are set to be introduced in Wales that could see drivers of heavily polluting vehicles charged for using some of the country’s busiest roads.

The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, introduced to the Senedd on Monday, could also lead to fines for stationary vehicles idling outside schools.

The Bill, part of a wider package of measures to improve air quality in Wales, will enable the Welsh Government to establish long-term air quality targets, guided by the latest scientific knowledge and the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines.

It will also allow for the creation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Low Emission Zones (LEZs) on trunk roads, giving local authorities greater powers to tackle vehicle idling.

Under the proposed law, drivers of heavily polluting vehicles could be required to pay fees on some of Wales’ busiest roads.

Schemes may involve charging drivers a fee to enter certain areas if their vehicle does not meet specified emission standards, similar to existing CAZs and LEZs in some English towns and cities.

Roads such as the A494 at Aston Hill, where 50mph pollution-reducing measures have been introduced, could become low-emission zones.

The same 50mph measures have been introduced on the M4 Newport J25-J26 and A470 Upper Boat-Pontypridd.

“Should the reduced speed limits fail to ensure sustained, long-term compliance, then CAZs will be considered at these locations,” state Welsh government documents.

However, the Welsh Government has NO plans to introduce charging schemes on Welsh roads, but the Bill aims to make it easier to introduce pollution-reducing measures.

Although powers exist to introduce road user charging schemes in Wales through Part III of the Transport Act 2000, they currently do not allow Ministers to introduce CAZs on trunk roads.

The proposed Bill aims to expand the circumstances under which a trunk road charging scheme may be introduced, enabling laws to address air quality hotspots with the same powers as local authorities.

Idling

The Bill also targets unnecessary vehicle idling in hotspots, particularly around schools, healthcare settings, and residential care homes.

Other “idling hotspots” may include major transport hubs in town or city centres.

“The fixed penalties will apply strictly to vehicle idling and its impacts on emissions,” Welsh Government documents state, adding that reducing instances of stationary vehicle idling will also result in benefits in terms of reducing noise and improving soundscapes.

Soundscapes

As part of the Bill, Wales will become the first nation in the UK to introduce a national soundscapes strategy, obliging the Welsh Government to develop policies that not only combat unwanted noise but also preserve valuable sounds, such as birdsong and the “welcoming hum of a vibrant town centre.”

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “Our Programme for Government sets out a commitment to introduce a Clean Air Bill for Wales and I am delighted we have reached the first stage in our legislative journey which will lead the way to a cleaner, healthier and greener future.”

“By introducing this Bill, our ambition is to further improve air quality and soundscapes by bringing forward new measures to reduce the impacts of air and noise pollution on human health, biodiversity and the natural environment.”

“The scale and scope of the Bill reflects our commitment to improving the quality of our air environment at a Wales-wide level, at a local and regional level and throughout society.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, said: “There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of serious illness and unwanted or harmful noise can not only cause hearing damage but also reduces our quality of life.

“Across government, we are already taking action to improve the air we breathe and promote healthy soundscapes.

“The Bill goes further and aims to make our air cleaner and our sound environments better. This is why I fully endorse the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) Bill for Wales.”

Joseph Carter, Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Head of Asthma + Lung UK Cymru, called the legislation a “huge win for Welsh lungs” and an important step towards a greener and healthier future.

The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill

The Bill covers eight different topics.  In summary, it will:

  • provide a framework for setting national air quality targets;
  • amend existing legislation relating to:
    • o the national air quality strategy,
    • o local air quality management,
    • o smoke control,
    • o trunk road charging schemes; and
    • o vehicle idling;
  • place a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution;
  • place a duty on Welsh Ministers to publish a national soundscapes strategy, and
  • give the Welsh Ministers a power to amend existing legislation relating to noise.

 

 

 

Laws are set to be introduced in Wales which could see drivers of heavily polluting vehicles charged for using some of Wales’ busiest roads.

Under the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, introduced to the Senedd on Monday 20 March, fines could also be introduced for stationary vehicles idling outside schools.

The new Bill, part of a wider package of measures to improve air quality in Wales, will enable the Welsh Government to establish long-term targets for air quality, guided by the latest scientific knowledge and the World Health Organisation Air Quality Guidelines.

It will allow for the creation of Clean Air Zones (CAZs) also known as Low Emission Zones (LEZs) on trunk roads and provide local authorities with greater powers to tackle vehicle idling.

Under a proposed new law, drivers of heavily polluting vehicles could be required to pay fees on some of Wales’ busiest roads.

Schemes could involve charging drivers a fee to enter certain areas if their vehicle does not meet specified emission standards, similar to existing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in some English towns and cities.

Roads such as the A494 at Aston Hill, where 50mph pollution-reducing measures have been introduced, could become low-emission zones.

The same 50mph measures have been introduced on the M4 Newport J25-J26 and A470 Upper Boat-Pontyprid.

“Should the reduced speed limits fail to ensure sustained, long-term compliance, then CAZs will be considered at these locations.” Welsh government documents state.

“However, there are currently no plans to introduce such schemes on Welsh roads.” Ministers say.

Although powers exist to introduce road user charging schemes in Wales through Part III of the Transport Act 2000, they currently do not allow Ministers to introduce CAZs on trunk roads.

The proposed Bill aims to expand the circumstances under which a trunk road charging scheme may be introduced, enabling laws to address air quality hot spots with the same powers as local authorities.

The Welsh government consulted on a Clean Air Zone Framework for Wales in 2018, describing a CAZ as a geographical area where coordinated actions are applied to significantly reduce public and environmental exposure to harmful airborne pollutants. Road traffic has been identified as a major source of air pollutants, leading to the consideration of CAZs as a potential solution for compliance with legally binding air quality standards.

Although powers exist to introduce road user charging schemes in Wales through Part III of the Transport Act 2000, they currently do not allow Ministers to introduce CAZs on trunk roads. The proposed Bill aims to expand the circumstances under which a trunk road charging scheme may be introduced, enabling trunk road schemes to address air quality hot spots with the same powers as local authorities.

The government’s focus on trunk road charging schemes highlights the need to address air pollution at its source and reflects a broader commitment to improving public health and the environment. If implemented, income raised through these schemes could be used for a wider range of measures beyond transport policies, further supporting air quality improvement and compliance with statutory limits and targets.

 

 

 

 

Wales will be the first nation in the UK to introduce a national soundscapes strategy, obliging the Welsh Government to develop policies that not only combat unwanted noise but also preserve valuable sounds, such as birdsong  and the “welcoming hum of a vibrant town centre.”

Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “Our Programme for Government sets out a commitment to introduce a Clean Air Bill for Wales and I am delighted we have reached the first stage in our legislative journey which will lead the way to a cleaner, healthier and greener future.”

“By introducing this Bill, our ambition is to further improve air quality and soundscapes by bringing forward new measures to reduce the impacts of air and noise pollution on human health, biodiversity and the natural environment.”

“The scale and scope of the Bill reflects our commitment to improving the quality of our air environment at a Wales-wide level, at a local and regional level and throughout society.

Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton, said: “There is strong evidence that exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of serious illness and unwanted or harmful noise can not only cause hearing damage but also reduces our quality of life.

“Across government we are already taking action to improve the air we breathe and promote healthy soundscapes.

“The Bill goes further and aims to make our air cleaner and our sound environments better. This is why I fully endorse the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) Bill for Wales.”

Joseph Carter, Chair of Healthy Air Cymru and Head of Asthma + Lung UK Cymru, called the legislation a “huge win for Welsh lungs” and an important step towards a greener and healthier future.

The World Health Organisation has identified air and noise pollution as significant environmental risks to public health.

Air pollution can contribute to the development of heart and lung disease, while noise pollution can cause sleep disruption, stress, and hearing damage.

The Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill aims to address these risks by providing a framework for setting national air quality targets, amending existing legislation relating to air and noise pollution, and placing a duty on Welsh Ministers to promote awareness of air pollution and publish a national soundscapes strategy.

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