SOUTHEND Council is drawing up plans to tackle air pollution.

The council’s air quality specialist has drafted the three-year action plan in response to reports of high levels of nitrogen dioxide being recorded along the A127 between the Bell and Cuckoo corner junctions in November 2016.

This led to an “Air Quality Management Area” being declared along this section of the A127 and the appointment of a specialist to devise a plan to bring air quality levels within acceptable limits.

Vehicles idling in traffic queues have been shown to pose a particular problem.

The Air Quality Action Plan, which will be put the to the council’s cabinet, includes using smart technology to monitor both traffic and environmental data, such as air-quality readings, simultaneously in real time and monitoring the impact of junction improvements at Kent Elms and The Bell.

The council also wants to encourage more walking a cycling and the use of electric vehicles and trains as well as the development of car clubs.

Bidding is underway for further funding for road improvements to the highways network.

Mark Flewitt, councillor responsible for public protection, said: “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and public interest in air quality has been at an all-time high.

“The most immediate air-quality challenge is tackling the problem of nitrogen dioxide around our roads.”

Jon Fuller, spokesman for South East Essex Friends of the Earth, said: “The council is only willing to go for soft measures to gently persuade people to walk, cycle and use public transport. I argue, and Friends of the Earth argues, that only concrete action will work.

“We need to expand the pedestrianised section of central Southend and begin the process of converting town centre car parks to zero emission vehicles only.

“We should start with 5 per cent of spaces dedicated to zero remissions vehicles and increase the proportion by 5 per cent per annum. We also need to follow the lead given by Oxford City Council and implement an ultra low emissions zone.

“In addition we need to expand the town’s cycle path network and introduce more measures to encourage bus use - targeted sections of bus lane.”