National and county-led partnerships inspire local solutions in Lancashire

Established in 2008, the Low Emission Partnership is a group made up of local authorities spanning across England who work together to protect public health, and tackle climate change, by reducing emissions from road transport.

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The LEP specialises in two broad areas: accelerating the adoption of low emission transport options, fuels and technology; and using emission-based assessment to support policy and action.

In 2008, Paul Cartmell established Wigan Council as one of the LEP’s members and he did the same with Lancaster City Council when he joined his new authority in 2012. 

This was an important thing to do for Paul as air quality was an important issue for Lancaster. From HGVs, buses and taxis to families doing the school run, the centre of Lancaster suffered particularly from air quality issues caused by a growth in traffic-related problems. 

Paul, who today is a Senior Environmental Health Officer in the Health and Housing department, said that Lancaster City Council was looking for solutions to air quality problems and joining the LEP was of obvious benefit to the local authority and to the wider partnership. 

“The opportunity to develop best practice guidance and tools with colleagues and often with the support of Defra was the obvious right way to go,” said Paul Cartmell. 

“The LEP is all about partnership working and enables different local authorities to come together to solve issues and share best practice. Air pollution knows no boundaries and the LEP is testament to that belief.” 

A significant recent achievement for the LEP and Paul has been producing three air quality planning guidance templates that provide a range of adoption options for local authorities to apply when considering new development in their patches. 

Initially launched regionally in November 2016, the templates are intended to provide a range of approaches that can both be used by local authorities across Lancashire with Air Quality Management Areas and those who do not. 

The three templates each covered a different area in the battle to tackle air quality, including: 

  • Template 1:  standard mitigation requirements for development and more traditional type assessments
  • Template 2:  standard mitigation requirements and new assessment (mass emission/pollution damage cost) reporting requirements for development
  • Template 3: standard mitigation requirements, new assessment/reporting requirements and methodology to require assessment against pollutant damage costs and potentially require contributions to deliver needed air quality action plan measures

What makes the new guidance unique in Paul’s eyes is the emphasis on considering the effect of mitigation through the use of mass emission assessment. This method also allows a scaled-down assessment approach for developments that are really not large enough for concentration assessment to be warranted or really helpful in planning decisions, thereby potentially wasteful and costly for a developer.  The information will allow better a better understanding and therefore better planning decision making on air quality issues. 

Since the guidance was launched at the end of 2016, Lancashire authorities have been consulted on their likely adoption of the guidance, with the majority indicating they intend to use the guidance. 

Beyond Lancaster, Paul is the chair of the Lancashire Air Quality Group and therefore as part of his role co-ordinates air quality initiatives with other EHPs based at different Lancashire local authorities and stakeholders at Lancashire County Council. Through the air quality sub-group, Paul works not only with other council-based EHPs but has relationships with other council departments, Defra, Public Health and the local University. 

In a two-tier authority, like Lancashire, the county and district councils have different responsibilities. Lancashire County Council is responsible for highways and has therefore taken a lead in developing a county transport master plan, which was adopted in October 2016. County Councils and air quality are often quoted as not being good partners. However in Lancaster the County Council recognised the transport related air quality issue and the Transport Masterplan for Lancaster embraces the delivery of a new assessed Air Quality Action Plan for Lancaster. 

In addition to focusing on new developments, the Lancaster Council is also looking to reduce emissions from buses. The council has recently obtained funding to reduce emissions from the 17 most frequent bus services running through the centre of Lancaster and is currently consulting taxi operators in relation to the operation of electric taxis in the district. 

Paul said that his work in tackling air pollution is far from finished and the future is most likely electric. 

“The use of electric vehicles forms a key part of the Transport Master Plan for Lancaster,” said Paul Cartmell. “Given their contribution to emissions in the city centre, taxis are of particular interest. There’s an excellent scheme in Blackpool where a significant amount of taxis are going electric and this something we would love to duplicate in Lancaster. 

“But funding is always going to be important and it would be great if there was more national support to assist all willing bus and taxi companies to have their vehicles retrofitted or better still, completely transferred to electric vehicles where this is a realistic option.” 

Further information on the planning guidance can be obtained by contacting Paul Cartmell at . 


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