Marianne O Sullivan’s column in yesterday’s Journal
Pollution, air quality and climate change have dominated headlines both regionally and nationally in recent weeks.
Rightly so, given they are some of the biggest challenges facing governments and society in coming years.
Locally, we appreciate the pressure Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside Councils are under to tackle poor air quality. From an economic perspective, the quality of the city environment is a big contributor to what makes this such a great place to live, work and play.
However, it is essential that any air quality measures are developed through extensive consultation with businesses to avoid unintended consequences that harm the area’s competitiveness.
Poor air quality impacts on the health of people living and working in the city centre but in order to best tackle the issue of air quality it is essential that the Councils understand the needs of the business community and how and why people and goods travel across the city.
Options the Councils are considering include a clean air charging zone which will impact older cars, vans, buses and HGVs. Another proposal is to have tolls on the Tyne, Swing and Redheugh bridges for cars, vans and HGVs along with a zone in central Newcastle where older taxis, lorries and buses would not be able to travel. Other measures could also include restrictions on the central motorway to reduce traffic.
There is currently a public consultation taking place on these proposals with an online link to provide feedback as well as face to face meetings with the Councils for businesses at the end of April.
We are encouraging our members and the wider business community to get involved and give their feedback.
It is important the local authorities are aware of how the proposals will impact businesses and what measures will need to be in place, to ensure that the city centre is still accessible for all uses whether business or leisure.
We need people to still be able to access the city easily. This will require investment in public transport as well as measures to support retailers to ensure the city centre is an attractive place to visit.
Councils across the country are grappling with this issue, and the solutions they come up with will vary hugely. But the most successful places will be the ones that achieve the careful balance of quality of life and economic opportunity.
This can only be achieved by listening to those who live, work and play in the area.