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Study launched to ‘clean up’ air pollution in Cambridge

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018


A study has been launched today on options for improving air quality in Cambridge through the creation of a Clean Air Zone.

The new research has been commissioned and funded by the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), with support from Cambridge City Council.

A Clean Air Zone is an area where targeted action is taken to improve air quality, which delivers improved health benefits and supports economic growth. Clean Air Zones are also being considered in a number of UK cities, including Oxford, Nottingham and Leeds.

Specialist company Ricardo-AEA will be undertaking the study into options for improving air quality in the city and will look at the potential implementation of a Clean Air Zone, such as restricting access to areas of Cambridge for polluting vehicles - including location, size and timings of any restrictions.

Councillor Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council said: “We’re committed to Cambridge and ensuring that Cambridge matches the highest levels of air quality in the country. We’re determined to take advantage of the latest technology and opportunities in national legislation to make this possible.”

“As our thriving city continues to grow, it’s essential that we tackle all the major sources of Cambridge’s air pollution. This research project is part of a raft of measures we’re undertaking to implement a Clean Air Zone in our city and improve the air we all breathe every day.”

Councillor Francis Burkitt, Chair of the Greater Cambridge Partnership said: “Air pollution aggravates a number of health conditions and this new study will help us improve our air quality for future generations. We’re delighted that we’re working with Cambridge City Council to undertake this research.”

Photo of congestion within Cambridge

Traffic congestion within Cambridge

While Cambridge has levels of pollution similar to market towns of comparable size, in some areas of the city centre levels of Nitrogen Dioxide exceed national guidelines. Recent estimates suggest that long-term exposure to air pollution contributes to 29,000 deaths across the UK every year, with 47 deaths in Cambridge alone.

Cambridge is a growing economic hub and current estimates suggest that traffic could increase by up to 40% by 2030. Traffic currently contributes up to 70-90 % of air pollution in the city centre and the study will look at how an increase in population and traffic could affect air quality.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridge City Council recently announced that they are supporting the introduction of ultra-low and zero emission buses and taxis to improve air quality. They’re also currently undertaking research on creating a solely low-emission bus network in Cambridge by 2031 and are installing eight electric charge points in the city for taxis. The City Council aims for all Cambridge licensed taxis to be low-emission vehicles by 2028.

Oxford is proposing the world’s first Zero Emission Zone by 2020 – banning certain vehicle types in the city centre and specific areas. London has a successful Low Emission Zone since 2008.

The results of the feasibility study will be reported back to the Greater Cambridge Partnership Executive Board later in the year. If approved, a draft design for a Clean Air Zone will be worked up, with a public consultation to follow.