Council leader pledges car-free York plan ‘won’t be a Lendal Bridge style PR disaster’
York’s deputy council leader went on national radio today to talk about the plan to introduce a car-free city centre.
As YorkMix reported on Tuesday (31 December) City of York Council is committed to stopping private car journeys within the walls by as early as 2023.
The bold plan has gone national. And today one of its architects, Green Party leader and council deputy leader Andy D’Agorne, went on Talk Radio to discuss the plans.
When challenged about the city’s last pedestrianisation project – closing Lendal Bridge in 2013, which was later ruled illegal forcing the council to repay a small fortune in fines to motorists – Cllr D’Agorne said: “That was a previous administration. That was a PR disaster certainly for the city.”
Asked by presenter Mike Graham if this plan “might be going down the same road,” he said:
I don’t think so because I think we’ve got more cross-party support this time.
The specifics came forth through the Labour group, and the administration is Green and Liberal Democrat. Certainly three out of the four parties represented on the city council have supported it.
Better buses, new tram systems
During the interview he was also challenged on York’s air quality, which Mr Graham said had “some of the lowest pollution of any city in Britain”, and on the public transport plans.
Here’s the full interview, which you can listen to here. The questions are by Mike Graham, the answers by Cllr Andy D’Agorne.
We’re wanting to take it a step further, and to reduce the amount of traffic in general, and also to tackle the climate emergency which the council declared in March this year.
We need to make that shift from car-based to sustainable travel, and this is one way of tackling that.
Mike questions York Council’s Andy D’Agorne over the decision to ban cars from the city centre: “If I buy a load of groceries I’d want to put them in my car instead of trying to get on a bus with 15 different bags.” Listen live ► https://t.co/sv3MZUm41c@iromg | @AndyDAgorne pic.twitter.com/QKrpkUcBSL
— talkRADIO (@talkRADIO) January 2, 2020
So in order to prioritise public transport and make it more attractive, we also want to remove non-essential traffic from the city centre.
When that gets clogged up some people then think it’s quicker to come across the city centre rather than avoiding it around the edge. So we are trying to address that as well.
But we have a busy tourist economy as well in the city – a much better range of cafes than you would otherwise have for the local population. And literally thousands of listed buildings in the city centre – narrow streets. They’re not designed around the car. We don’t want to be knocking buildings down to provide better access.
So what we need to do is make walking and cycling more attractive, so people are not dodging cars.
This Christmas of course with the national security alerts we did have to have in place some rather big, ugly barriers around the central area to protect the Christmas market. And that sort of thing we are moving on with better facilities rather than the temporary arrangements we had this Christmas.
Anybody going past that barrier had to have a pass. That might be the sort of thing which would be developed over a wider area of the central part of York.
Although the buses might cause, per vehicle, the biggest pollution, overall there’s a challenge that we have to try and make the air cleaner within our city.
The interviewer unfortunately didn’t do his research properly – there are a number of locations in York where the 40microgram/m3 NO2 limit is still being breached. The problem arises from relying purely on the stats from the Council’s main monitoring stations which are quoted on the Council’s Jorair site, which links to the Defra Air Quality site. I suspect the interviewer simply looked at the real time or monthly monitoring station site info from those limited number of sites with the sophisticated equipment. They aren’t necessarily in the most acute locations because of their bulk and availability of space to locate them. These sites are all currently showing under the limit when I looked now (see https://www.airqualityengland.co.uk/local-authority/?la_id=76 , along with the Council’s monthly returns to DEFRA https://www.airqualityengland.co.uk/local-authority/reports?la_id=76). The researcher obviously didn’t look at the separate diffusion tube info in the Council’s own annual Air Pollution reports, which aren’t real time (they are monthly samples) but which cover many more locations including some more highly polluted locations. To see those you need to know that they exist and hunt about for the Council’s annual reports on the Council’s democracy pages ( http://jorair.co.uk/data-downloads/reports/ ) The latest 2019 annual report, Appendix B (http://jorair.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/ASRWEB2019.pdf) lists the diffusion tube results and show 14 locations exceeding the NO2 annual 40 ppm limit including Bootham, Gillygate, Blossom Street, Rougier Street, Micklegate, Low Ousegate, Coppergate. Lawrence Street, and the Station Portico taxi rank area.
Thanks for the full transcript as I don’t often listen to the radio. Sad to see that some people think just because we don’t have the worst air pollution in the country means we shouldn’t try to improve it.