Sheffield City Council is using Clean Air Day to renew its commitment to reduce air pollution and the damage it causes, as it builds on a series of commitments to tackle climate and environmental emergencies.

Research shows that air pollution is responsible for around 500 deaths a year in Sheffield, and damages the health of many more people – with children being particularly vulnerable to lung damage.

To mark Clean Air Day, the Council is helping Nether Edge Primary and Watercliffe Meadow Community Primary School close roads on Thursday to encourage parents to leave their cars at home on the school run.

The Council is considering further measures to cut air pollution around schools. In 2018, Sheffield City Council gave Civil Enforcement Officers the power to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers for leaving their engines running in designated areas outside schools.

The enforcement has been widely welcomed, with the vast majority of drivers switching their engines off when officers request them to do so. The second phase of the scheme is set to be rolled out later this year.

Since 2018, the Council has started a £5million project to upgrade buses to the cleanest model available, secured £500,000 to increase access to rapid-charge points for electric cars and will publish the proposals and launch a city-wide conversation for Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone on 1 July this year.

It is also improving its own vehicle fleets. The Streets Ahead team is gearing up to run another 15 electric vehicles to replace its current diesel vehicles as part of its commitment to reducing carbon emissions and air pollution. It is also taking a major eco-friendly step by trialling two vans that use a hydrogen fuel cell to extend the range of power the battery gives to approximately 200 miles. The Council itself also runs an extra five hydrogen vehicles.

Lewis Dagnall, Cabinet Member for Environment, Street Scene and Climate Change said: “Air pollution is a scandal that our country is finally waking up to. We are preparing major plans for consultation on how to cut air pollution in the city centre, but steps like our ‘anti-idling zones’ are also crucial to protecting children.

“Introducing cleaner vehicles in Sheffield is the first step towards clean air. But active travel, by foot or by bike, is always the best option for those who can. I look forward to joining parents and pupils at Nether Edge Primary for the road closure tomorrow – a symbol which makes the important point that although there is much to do, we can make a difference on these issues.”

The Council has already issued a new commitment to bring forward the city’s carbon neutral target from 2050 to a minimum of 2030, following work with stakeholders since February. A Citizens Assembly will be commissioned to consider the necessary actions in the city to implement this change. It will be drawn to represent all parts of the city, including young people.

Councillor Dagnall added: “Air pollution is closely related to climate crisis – they’re both products of an unsustainable way of living. We have just over decade to achieve a transition to carbon neutrality, in order to avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change. The steps we’re taking to support clean vehicles are important first steps towards this.”