The Clean Air Act 1993 is an amazing piece of legislation. It’s under utilised by those on our Council, who could use it to much greater effect to educate and inform us all about clean air.
All parties since being elected to Folkestone & Hythe District Council, positively promote the environment now. What with a Shepway Green Party Cllr as the Cabinet Member for the Environment & Air Quality (pictured), they could really use this legislation to educate residents and improve air quality across the district – a win-win.
Under s34(1)(a)(b)(c)(d) and (e) of the Act, it allows all Councils, including ours, to undertake research and publicity regarding clean air.
(1)A local authority may—
(a) undertake, or contribute towards the cost of, investigation and research relevant to the problem of air pollution;
(b) arrange for the publication of information on that problem;
(c) arrange for the delivery of lectures and addresses, and the holding of discussions, on that problem;
(d) arrange for the display of pictures, cinematograph films or models, or the holding of exhibitions, relating to that problem; and
(e) prepare, or join in or contribute to the cost of the preparation of, pictures, films, models or exhibitions to be displayed or held as mentioned in paragraph (d).
So, it’s perfectly feasible for our Cllrs to instruct our Council to pay for research, deliver lectures and get films made about air quality/pollution. It’s also possible for the Cabinet member of the Environment to do a roadshow around village halls – once Covid sanctions are lifted – to give residents and businesses well informed lectures on air quality, and what we all can do about it, eg: plant more trees, walk, cycle, consider electric vehicles, inform business about green grants and more, much more.
Section 35 of the act is just as amazing. Section 35(1) states:
Without prejudice to the generality of section 34 (research, etc. by local authorities), local authorities may obtain information about the emission of pollutants and other substances into the air—
(a) by issuing notices under section 36 (information about emissions from premises);
(b) by measuring and recording the emissions, and for that purpose entering on any premises, whether by agreement or in exercise of the power conferred by section 56 (rights of entry and inspection); and
(c) by entering into arrangements with occupiers of premises under which they measure and record emissions on behalf of the local authority;
Section34 and s35(1), would allow the Council to monitor air quality on Princes Parade and Otterpool Park from the beginning to the end of the developments. Such valuable research data, openly published at various stages, would allow residents, developers, wildlife charities and other interested parties, to see the impact of development upon air quality. If we are to lose these sites, then at least let them educate and inform us of something.
Our Chief Executive – Dr Susan Priest – undertook a Ph.D at Cambridge, Shepway Green Cllr – Georgina Treolar is doing a part-time PhD in Environmental Social Science at the University of Kent, and Labour Cllr, Jackie Meade, who received a BA in Environmental Studies (OU) ought to understand the value of research, and how it can contribute to body of research already available. Such data on air quality across the two developments belonging to the Council would inform planners, developers and residents. Such research would help us better understand our environment and the impact development has on it. In this sense we could be an exemplar council.
s35(1)(a)(b)(c) allows the Council to issue a notice to a business asking for its emissions data. Such data would help build a better picture of the amount of emissions generated across our district. It could aslo inform research to indicate the number of trees we might need to plant, and other measures we could take to alleviate climate change.
s36(1) of the Act allows our Council: by notice in writing to require the occupier of any premises in its area to furnish, whether by periodical returns or by other means, such estimates or other information as may be specified or described in the notice concerning the emission of pollutants and other substances into the air from the premises.
We don’t believe our Council should make this mandatory. If businesses were to voluntarily give this information to the Council, we would have a much better picture on the quantity of emissions generated across the district.
As we said earlier, lectures would be open to all, including businesses and Town & Parish Councils. At such lectures they could be informed of grants they could apply for to help them go green/er. Let’s not forget the Council have set aside £4.75 million for “Green Initiatives”, which could get the ball rolling.
Under s38(5) of the Act, a register must be maintained by our Council, in relation to the Council’s functions under sections 34 to 36 of the Act. This must be open to inspection free of charge at all reasonable times. Also a reasonable fee can be charged for the supply of copies of entries in the register. Unfortunately the Fee charges on the Council’s website makes no mention of any fee charge for obtaining copies of entries on the register.
The Clean Air Act register like the Environmental Permitting register ought to go online, as it would demonstrate the Council are proactively disseminating environmental information as they must under Reg 4 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Any Cllr, or any party who sit on the Council could bring a motion to get the sections of the Act above accepted by the Council. As we said, £4.75 million has been set aside for “Green Initiatives”. This money would easily cover the cost of research on/for Princes Parade and Otterpool Park.
It’s near two years since the Council passed its Climate & Ecological Emergency Motion. With the Clean Air Act 1993 it allows those responsible for our environment to tour the district to inform, Businesses, Parish & Town Councils and residents – once restrictions are lifted, what they can do to maintain our wonderful environment we live in.
It’s time for talking to cease. It is time to act, to get the show on the road as soon as possible, because we can all play our part, big and small, as the air we breathe is important to us all.
The Shepway Vox Team
Being Voxatious is NOT a Crime