Wednesday 24 July 2024
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CN2028: Will Nottingham city become a Clean Air Zone?

Major financial challenges are threatening Nottingham’s ambition to become carbon neutral in the next four years with the leader of  Nottingham City Council saying the city is holding on to the goal “by our fingertips”.

In 2019, the Labour-run council declared a climate and ecological emergency and set a target become the first ‘carbon neutral’ city in the UK by 2028.


The term means any carbon dioxide emissions put into the atmosphere will be offset through activities and projects to reduce them.

A draft review of the council’s plans has been completed, and initial findings were discussed during a Communities and Environment Scrutiny Committee on April 3.

During the meeting Cllr David Mellen (Lab), the leader of the council, said the authority was “holding on by our fingertips” because of immediate financial concerns.

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In November last year the council issued a Section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy, and later approved sweeping cuts to services and jobs amid multi-million pound gaps in its annual budgets.

Commissioners have since been appointed to help run the authority, taking over from an improvement board that was first appointed in January 2021, following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.

Carbon Neutral ‘Not a statutory duty’

“We are in a situation where we have just set a budget based on statutory duties,” Cllr Mellen said.

“Carbon neutral is not a statutory duty.

“We have just had a situation where we’ve had to make many savings and this is an area which, if the early findings of this review are the way we need to go, might cost us a lot of money in terms of offsetting our carbon emissions.

“Our weaknesses including our financial situation, and the fact there is no spare money means some of the things we might want to do in an ideal world we won’t be able to do.”

The review, conducted by a former government civil servant, noted the council may be forced to consider “harder and more controversial actions”.

These include the possibility of the creation of clean air zones, within which some vehicles are charged if they don’t meet emissions standards.

“We’ve so far been told we don’t need to do [a clean air zone] because of the fact our air quality is better than places like Manchester and Bristol who have had to do it,” he said.

“But actually if we did implement a clean air zone that would reduce our emissions further.

“But I think as politicians we are in two minds about that. That’s a difficult one and maybe we can discuss that.”

Wind turbines in the city

Cllr Mellen further suggested the possibility of building wind turbines in the city, prompting concerns from an opposition councillor.

Cllr Kevin Clarke, the leader of the Nottingham Independents and Independent Group, described the ambitions as “unrealistic”.

“I always thought it was not realistic anyway,” he said.

“As we got onto wind turbines we certainly would not want to see them around the city. To me they are an eye-sore and they are the most ineffective way to generate clean energy.”

Cllr Mellen replied: “I don’t apologise for having an ambitious target. I think it is right for us to aim high for the safety of our citizens.

“We are an ambitious council and I am not suggesting it is easy. Just because something is difficult does not mean you should give up on it.

“It is true that our financial situation and the national situation mean that our ambition to become carbon neutral by 2028 is harder.

“For example if we were to have a clean air zone in the city it might help reduce emissions but would it be the right thing to do for Nottingham when they are already paying for the Workplace Parking Levy.

He said the council was running out of time and would need some short-term thinking.

“We have to balance this year’s budget rather than thinking about what happens in 2028.”

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