CIEH Calls for Primary Legislation in Open Letter to Michael Gove

21 June 2018, Ross Matthewman

As part of National Clean Air Day, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has written an open letter to the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP, calling for urgent action on air quality.

Deteriorating air quality across the UK is fast becoming a crisis with significant wider health and societal effects. Over the last year, CIEH has been consistently disappointed by the lack of engagement from the Government on this issue and, as part of the Healthy Air Campaign, CIEH has supported ClientEarth in the legal action it has taken on three occasions to hold the Government to account.

To date, the Government’s response has been underwhelming, with its NO2 strategy, 25 Year Plan for the Environment, and the recently released draft Clean Air Strategy, all being heavily criticised as inadequate. 

In the open letter, CIEH has urged the Government to introduce primary legislation to tackle the air quality crisis, alongside adopting six key measures:

  1. Recognition that air quality and climate change are inextricably linked.
  2. Tangible steps to promote a shift towards zero emission vehicles, such as setting national minimum standards for buses, lorries, and licensed taxi, emissions, vehicle scrappage schemes, and significant investment in national infrastructure to support zero emission vehicles.
  3. A centrally-funded national campaign to encourage sustainable and active transport, dissuade people from travelling by car, and promote walking and cycling in congested areas.
  4. New guidance for the Planning Inspectorate to ensure that due regard is given to the adverse impact large developments may have on air quality before they approve development.
  5. Nationally set parameters for new houses to ensure they are fit for the future, such as the inclusion of electric vehicle charging points and the provision of ultra-low NOx emission boilers.
  6. The commissioning of further research into developing effective strategies to address the health and wider societal effects of poor air quality.

Anne Godfrey, CEO at CIEH, said:

“Mr Gove has expressed his passion for improving the environment alongside a commitment to addressing the very real air quality crisis our country faces. But now is the time for action.

Primary legislation is absolutely essential to begin to tackle this vital issue, and is a key indicator of whether the Government intends to live up to its ambitious promises.

Our letter also sets out the six steps that central government must take to get the ball rolling, and we look forward to seeing some tangible action on these going forwards.”

The full letter can be downloaded here.