Feature: Liverpool and air quality

Paul Farrell from Liverpool City Council explains the air quality challenges faced in the city and what progress has been made on tackling them.

Liverpool is known throughout the world for its maritime and cultural heritage. However, it has to look to the future and to make Liverpool a city of choice, of destination, whether that be for visitors, inward investment or for its existing residents and businesses. As such it understands the importance of clean air and its positive contribution it will make to the city’s ability to grow in the future.  

As a result the Council has embarked on a number of initiatives that will improve air quality across the city and the wider city region including the City Centre Connectivity scheme and City Mobility strategy both of which are looking to make walking, cycling and the use of public transport a priority over cars. These initiatives are geared towards improving connections across the city to make it easier and safer to navigate. Furthermore, they require major Highways infrastructure changes, which in themselves will help reduce congestion and improve air quality. 

But before then, we need to understand where Liverpool has come from with regards to Air Quality and what is currently being done to improve Air Quality across the city. In keeping with other Local Authorities in England and Wales, Liverpool City Council (LCC) has a legal duty to monitor Air Quality within its boundaries, and where air quality fails to meet the required limit values for any of a prescribed number of pollutants,  it must take action to address any exceedances. 

Pre 2005 Liverpool had two small Air Quality Management Area’s (AQMA’s) where it failed to meet the limit value for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) of 40µg/m3 as an Annual Mean. However due to further exceedances/hotspots being discovered across the city in successive years between 2005 and 2007, the Council declared the whole of the city as an AQMA in 2008. 

Once a city wide AQMA was declared, the Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) related to the two small AQMA’s was updated to identify actions that could be taken to improve air quality and bring compliance. These actions were implemented with varying degrees of success. In yearly reviews of Air Quality across the city via the Review & Assessment process, actions within the AQAP were removed once completed, and new actions were added when introduced such as Government funding for Green Bus Technology for example. 

Following on from the introduction of the city wide AQMA, Liverpool implemented a number of measures that have had a positive impact on Air Quality, but there still remained a number of exceedances across the city that resulted in Liverpool being legally mandated by Government in the third wave of Local Authorities in October 2018. 

The legal mandate stated that Liverpool needed to produce a Clean Air Plan (CAP) that would identify how NO2 levels could be reduced in the shortest possible time so that the whole of the city would be compliant. 

In support of the production of a CAP the Council has undertaken extensive work to understand the scale of the problem across the city through Transport and Air Quality modelling. This work has identified several road length exceedances that  require some form of intervention to achieve compliance. A Clean Air Zone (CAZ) as a benchmark has had to be modelled, in addition the Council has looked at non-CAZ options where a CAZ is either considered inappropriate or ineffective, and where non-CAZ options could make the exceedances across the city become compliant as quickly as with a CAZ, if not quicker.  

Apart from one road length, it is forecast that Liverpool City Centre will become compliant by 2024/25 subject to the Council being able to introduce measures that have been identified through the modelling. However, it is expected that the one remaining exceedance to the north of the city may need several smaller interventions over an extended period of time for it to become compliant, and at present compliance at this location will be post 2025. 

There is currently sensitivity testing on the various modelling outputs being undertaken and consultation with various key stakeholders such as the Taxi Trade, SME’S, etc. has being started to understand the impact on them if certain measures were introduced, especially around their response to a charging CAZ. A decision to introduce a charging CAZ seems unlikely from current modelling, but in the event that one was to be introduced, it would still need Council Member approval, and a statutory consultation with residents and businesses across the city will need to take place before a decision to implement a charging zone would be reached. 

In addition to the CAP, the Council is active in monitoring Air Quality across the city, with  Passive Diffusion Tubes for monitoring NO2 concentrations deployed at over 140 locations. 

Furthermore, the Council installed 5 automatic monitoring stations for measuring NO2 in 2020. The decision to install these was taken following the set-up of a Task Group in 2017 by the Mayor of Liverpool, who wanted to understand the scale of air quality issues across the city so that these could be addressed. The initial work of the Task Group was however superseded by the Governments decision to mandate the city in October 2018. 

There is also NO2 and Particulate Matter monitoring undertaken as part of the international Urban Green Up project that Liverpool has been part of during the past 4 years. This monitoring links in with the other Air Quality monitoring undertaken in the city to provide a better understanding of air quality across the city. 

The Council has also made progress in communicating with residents and businesses with regards to Air Quality via the Let’s Clear the Air Liverpool website. The website hosts a wealth of information about Air Quality in Liverpool including details about the Liverpool Clean Air Plan, live Air Quality data feeds, Council led projects being undertaken to improve Air Quality and initiatives funded through the governments Air Quality grant fund such as the Schools project that has recently been started with Imperial College London. 

In summary, with regards to improving Air Quality, Liverpool has made significant progress since the declaration of a city wide AQMA in 2008, but it understands it is far from complete, especially with regards to WHO proposals to reduce all pollutant limit values principally in relation to Particulate Matter. The increased public and political awareness of poor air quality and its negative impact on health and wellbeing means that the work to improve Air Quality in Liverpool will continue at pace for the foreseeable future. 

This article first appeared in the May issue of Air Quality News – read it in full here


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