Air quality management

Air quality ministerial direction

North Staffordshire local air quality plan

There are two main harmful air pollutants caused by road traffic - particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The government has set statutory limits for the concentration of NO2 in the air that we breathe, because pollution from road traffic contributes to the deaths of up to 40,000 people every year in the UK. Our recent study has shown that a short section of Etruria Road, between Basford Park Road and Victoria Street, has NO2 concentrations that exceed the statutory limits. This section of road is on the boundary with Stoke-on-Trent, so the government issued a ministerial direction to the borough and city councils, requiring us to prepare and deliver a plan that will, in the shortest possible time, reduce and keep the NO2 concentrations to below the statutory limits.

After a major feasibility study and extensive liaison with government officials, the solution identified for Etruria Road is the installation of what’s known as a 'bus gate' - a short section of carriageway which will have restricted access during the hours of 7am-10am and 4pm-7pm, Monday to Friday. During these hours, only buses, coaches, taxis, pedal cycles and a small number of exempted vehicles will be able to drive through the bus gate, which will be located just off the A500 roundabout, travelling towards Newcastle-under-Lyme. Traffic travelling towards the A500 won’t be affected. The bus gate reduces the peak period traffic flow on Etruria Road to a level at the which the statutory air quality limits should not be exceeded. It is also faster to deliver than any other options that were identified, including the proposal for a 'clean air zone' (CAZ) which would impose daily charges on older vehicles that don’t meet current emissions standards.

The councils are now working on what’s called the 'full business case' for the scheme, which will determine the amount of money we need from the government to install the bus gate and to help mitigate any negative impacts the bus gate may have, for example on local businesses. The business case will also determine how long the bus gate has to remain in place, because as more and more older vehicles are replaced with newer and cleaner vehicles, pollution levels will reduce and the bus gate will no longer be required to maintain compliance with the statutory limits. It is estimated that this will happen in 4-5 years, but is dependent on many factors.

The full business case is due to be completed by Summer 2023. After which the bus gate will take about a year to complete, because it involves the introduction of traffic orders which require advertisement and consultation, and then construction will take several months.

An update was provided to Cabinet on 13 October 2021, relating to the North Staffordshire Local Air Quality Plan (NSLAQP) and in particular the requirement for a bus gate on the A53 Etruria Road. Cabinet supports the exemption of ultra-low emission vehicles and emergency services vehicles from the proposed bus gate and also requested modelling for the exemption of low emission vehicles and additional modelling of current/future post Covid traffic patterns. The leader has written to the government requesting that the bus gate be removed as soon as natural compliance can be proven to have been achieved and is maintainable, without the bus gate. We are taking this approach in an attempt to minimise the potential disruption the bus gate will cause to borough residents and businesses. The Cabinet is lobbying local MPs in this respect.

The City Council is also progressing a CAZ and a programme of bus retrofit to tackle other locations within the city where NO2 concentrations exceed the statutory limits. Further information about these proposals are available from the City Council.