PLANS to tackle poor air quality by cutting the speed limit on a section of the A127 and introducing a ‘clean air zone’ have been given the green light.

Basildon councillors met on Tuesday night to back a range of measures to tackle poor air quality, including reducing the speed limit from 70mph to 50mph from shortly before the Fortune of War junction to the A127 Pound Lane junction.

Any speed limits under 70mph within the area will remain the same, while the new limit will be enforced through the use of average speed cameras.

The committee also supported plans to introduce a clean air zone in which the council will be able to take specific actions to improve air quality.

The designated zone will be surrounding the same stretch of the A127 as the change in speed limit and include the Pipps Hill and Burnt Mills industrial estates.

Within the zone, the council will be able to issue fines for cars found to have their engine idling.

The council will offer businesses advice and support on upgrading to cleaner vehicles, installing electric charging points and encouraging their staff to travel more sustainably.

While the authority does have the option to introduce a charge to motorists travelling within the zone, they agreed not to do this as it could have a “detrimental health impact” on residents caused by traffic diverting through nearby residential areas.

Other changes will include improvements to cycle routes and public transport and an increase in charging points for electric cars.

The plans are all part of an outline business case and will not be given the go-ahead until further discussion has taken place, including a public consultation held later in the year.

The council is required to tackle the problem after tests by Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) found the area around this section of the A127 has poor air quality which exceeds national limits and must be addressed “in the shortest possible time”.

Kevin Blake, vice-chairman of the Urgent Decisions and Staffing Sub-Committee, said: “Poor air quality is the largest environmental risk to public health that we face in our local community, and so we support the local actions which will help us to address the issues we’ve identified.

"The proposed non-charging clean air zone, alongside our other planned local transport improvements, will help us improve the air we breathe in Basildon.”

'It's a tax on the people of Essex!'

A BUSINESS has slammed a proposal to introduce a “clean air zone”, calling it a “tax on the people of Essex” which could push companies out of the area.

MotorAid in one of many businesses operating in the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate which would be included within a designated zone where fines could be issued for idling engines, and companies will be under pressure to use clean vehicles.

The council believes the measures will tackle poor air quality in the area and could introduce the designated zone, as well as a 50mph speed limit on the A127.

But Simon Croft, director of MotorAid, warned his business would be among many that could relocate as a result.

He said: “From a business owner’s perspective, the more restrictive an area becomes to operate in, the more likely that companies will look to relocate.

"For residents perhaps this is great news, but now our workers will have longer to travel if we relocate, which has a negative impact on the environment and is unsustainable.

“I think like all good environment citizens, for which our company has won awards, this is nothing more than a tax on the people of Essex by way of speed cameras. The environment is just a lame excuse.

"The advice that has been offered to local businesses by Basildon Council on upgrading to cleaner vehicles, installing electrical charging points is nothing more than negligible and doesn’t tackle the core issues like sustainable travel for my team, such as trams, monorail or railway between the A12 and A127 corridors, linking the two mainline stations at Chelmsford and Basildon.

“Interconnectivity would then be sustainable by reducing carbon emissions on the road. Instead, the ownness is wholly on local businesses in an extremely tough economic climate too.

He added that the current plans risk impacting the environment negatively and there needs to be a consultation with the relevant businesses before the council makes a decision.

He said: “I invite any councillor to come and spend a week in my business to see what we do to to reduce environmental impact and to see in the eyes of a business owner how we can work successfully together without destructive decisions taken place on a whim."