More 20mph zones, increased parking charges for the most-polluting cars, and several other measures are in line to tackle Reading’s poor air quality.

Poor air quality can cause a number of health problems such as the exacerbation of asthma, according to Public Health England, and long-term can lead to lung cancer, respiratory conditions, cardiovascular disease, and strokes.

In February 2013, nine year old Ella Kissi-Debrah, died after an acute asthma attack in south London. In 2020, a landmark coroner’s report made Ella the first person in the world to have air pollution cited as a cause of death.

Now, Reading Borough Council is in the process of devising an Air Quality Action Plan to tackle poor air quality in the town up to 2029.

Measures to improve Air Quality are primarily focused on travel, as emissions from motor vehicles are a prime cause of harmful pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide.

Reading Chronicle: Effects of air pollution on health according to Public Health England.Effects of air pollution on health according to Public Health England. (Image: Public Health England)

Proposals include introducing more 20mph zones, charging people more for parking permits if they drive heavier polluting vehicles and reprioritising road space from cars to other methods of transport such as buses and bikes. 

The introduction of more 20mph zones has been justified as supporters argue the limit reduces the need for acceleration and braking, which is fuel and emissions-intensive.

In terms of larger proposals, the council has also proposed charging HGVs that use Reading as a cut-through to get to and from the M4, and lobbying for a third Thames Bridge, which would require cooperation with South Oxfordshire District Council and Wokingham Borough Council.

Reading Chronicle: A design for a Third Thames Bridge which would link Thames Valley Park in Earley with Caversham. Credit: Reading Borough CouncilA design for a Third Thames Bridge which would link Thames Valley Park in Earley with Caversham. Credit: Reading Borough Council

The council is currently seeking residents’ views on its draft Air Quality Action Plan.

A consultation asks whether members of the public agree with the proposed measures mentioned above, along with other proposals, and whether residents agree with the council’s air quality priorities, which include:

  1. Reducing road emissions throughout Reading, with emphasis placed on reducing emissions on the Inner Distribution Road (IDR)
  2. Reducing exposures of individuals and locations where vulnerable people (children, elderly and those with cardiovascular disease) live, work or visit;
  3. Encouraging, enabling and supporting people and businesses to shift from high polluting to zero emission transport or energy options;
  4. Inform and educate people on the financial, environmental and health benefits of active travel and reducing emissions through our daily lives;
  5. Inform, educate and enforce compliance (where necessary) on domestic wood burning regulations
  6. Improving the council monitoring network and planning requirements to support other projects and ensure new developments align with the aims of the air quality action plan.

You can take part in the consultation on the Consult Reading website and emailing the council’s principal air quality officer .

The deadline for responses is Wednesday, January 17.

The draft Air Quality Action Plan 2024 to 2029 was approved for consultation at a meeting of the council’s strategic environment, planning and transport committee last November.

At the time, councillor David McElroy (Green, Redlands) said: “I suggest that anyone who lives in Reading and breathes on most days participates in this consultation.”