Clean Air Zone being considered for Colchester town centre

Vehicles which do not have clean emissions could be banned from or charged to use Colchester High St

Vehicles which do not have clean emissions could be banned from or charged to use Colchester High Street - Credit: Su Anderson

High polluting vehicles could be banned or charged to enter Colchester town centre under ambitious council plans to tackle air quality – as pollution kills an estimated 143 people in the borough each year.

Chris Phillips Essex fleet director for First buses, Belinda Silkstone of Colchester Borough Council

Chris Phillips Essex fleet director for First buses, Belinda Silkstone of Colchester Borough Council, Steve Hartman of First Buses with one of the retro-fitted green buses for Colchester

Central Colchester could be made a Clean Air Zone under the borough council proposals, which have gone out to consultation.

Views are wanted on its draft five-year Air Quality Action Plan, which includes a provision Low Emission Strategy, to tackle the problem.

Funded by a £50,000 Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) grant, the Low Emission Strategy aims to address traffic pollution in more detail and will be just the sixth strategy of its type in the UK.

A Clean Air Zone could include restrictions on vehicles using the town centre, with those which are not clean enough charged a fee or banned.

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However the council has said it is only considering restrictions on buses, taxis and heavy goods vehicles, and not private cars.

Final decisions on next steps will be taken after the consultation, and taking into account new guidance currently being drawn up by Defra.

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Private cars account for 46% of air pollution in the town centre.

The 143 deaths figure, contained within the report, is based on a national average. But while many areas of the borough show fewer deaths caused by respiratory illness, seven wards – including key town centre areas – are worse.

Castle ward exceeds the England average by more than 125%.

There are already four Air Quality Management Areas, covering the town centre and New Town, Harwich Road at its junction with St Andrew’s Avenue, and Lucy Lane North in Stanway.

Other measures being considered include raising awareness, encouraging more people to use public transport, and working with transport operators to reduce emissions.

Tina Bourne, borough councillor for public protection, said: “Air pollution is a serious public health challenge, everyone has the right to breathe clean air.

“This strategy and action plan propose ambitious measures to improve health outcomes and ensure Colchester is a thriving and welcoming place.

“I encourage everyone to view the documents online, to give us their views and consider how they can be part of the solution.”

To view the draft Air Quality Action Plan and have your say visit The consultation closes on March 11.

Cleaner buses for Colchester

Another boost came to the town’s air quality this week as First Essex unveiled ten upgraded buses serving routes around Colchester.

The buses have been retro-fitted with new technology to reduce emissions. The catalytic kit cuts emissions by more than 80%.

Work was carried out on the vehicles after a successful joint funding bid by First and Colchester Borough Council resulted in a £194,000 grant from the Department for Transport to cover the project costs.

All the buses have been wrapped with eye-catching livery to highlight their contribution to improved air quality.

First Essex has also invest £2million in 17 new buses, which are cleaner and more efficient, for the town.

Mrs Bourne added: “We are pleased these vehicles now have greatly reduced emissions, thanks to our partnership with First Essex.”

Chris Phillips, fleet engineer for First Essex said: “As part of our commitment to improving bus provision in and around the town of Colchester, we are also committed to improving the environmental impact and air quality in the area.

“Partnerships are key in delivering sustainable projects as highlighted by this initiative with Colchester Borough Council to improve air quality.”

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