Cork City Council: Why we've developed an air quality strategy

Cork City Council recently launched their Air Quality Strategy, 2021-2016. Here, Dave Joyce, Cork City Council Director of Operations, tells us more about the plan’s ambitions in the years ahead
Cork City Council: Why we've developed an air quality strategy

Sergej Dawljatbekow, Green City Solutions, Kevin Ryan, Executive Scientist, Environment Operations at Cork City Council, Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher, David Joyce, Director of Operations, Cork City Council, and Michael Springindschmitten, Green City Solutions, pictured on St Patrick St, at the launch of the Cork City Council 2021-2026 Air Quality Strategy. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan /OSM PHOTO

IN recent days, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher, launched Cork City Council’s ‘Air Quality Strategy 2021-2026’.

This comprehensive strategy outlines the actions Cork City Council will take to reduce the concentrations of air pollutants in the city area, enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Cork and visitors to the region.

The five-year strategy is comprised of a suite of 69 separate actions grouped under seven high level themes (Health and Wellbeing, Air Quality Monitoring, Travel, Electric Vehicles and Charging Infrastructure, Regulation and Enforcement, Green Infrastructure and Research and Innovation).

Up to 1,300 people are believed to die prematurely each year from air pollution, according to the EPA.

Cork City Council is the first local authority in the country to devise such a strategy and this follows on from the recent delivery of key air quality related initiatives, including a real-time air quality monitoring system across the city, the introduction of an ambitious city centre pedestrianisation programme (comprising of 17 streets) and the installation of the new ‘CityTree’ Moss Wall natural air purification systems on the streets of Cork, located at Saint Patricks Street and Grand Parade.

The Air Quality Strategy sets out short, medium, and long-term initiatives to improve air quality in Cork city. 

It includes proposals such as a ‘last mile Electric Vehicle Delivery’ service for HGV (heavy goods vehicles) in the city, the creation of Low Emission Zones/Clean Air Zones, the increase of tree cover across the city including the development and enhancing of ecological corridors, the securing of wetland areas, increasing the number of pocket parks and parklets and the expansion of areas to be used to offset carbon levels.

Other actions contained in the strategy include a significant education programme in schools and a public information campaign, an annual clean air day in the City to further raise awareness of air quality related issues and continued enforcement of air quality regulations, including the Solid Fuel (Smoky Coal) Regulations.

We will also further build on initiatives delivered in the past number of months including the conversion of 76 of the City Council’s fleet to electric vehicles and improvements in cycling infrastructure across the entire City.

We will also actively support the delivery of key longer-term deliverables including the €3.5 billion euro Cork Metropolitan Transport Strategy (CMATS) which includes significant improvements to the public bus network (Bus Connects) and Rail commuter infrastructure.

At the core of Cork City Council’s Air Quality Strategy is the existence of an air quality monitoring system. Cork City Council has worked closely with UCC to develop and improve upon the existing air quality monitoring infrastructure. The partnership has focused on developing the most accurate and cost-efficient method of air quality monitoring and the creation of the Cork City Air Quality Dashboard (www.corkairquality.ie).

The council will closely work with external stakeholders such as resident’s groups, ESB, University College Cork, Munster Technological University, The Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) Healthy Cities programme, among other groups to develop and implement the strategy.

Structures have been put in place to oversee the implementation of this Air Quality Strategy. 

The strategy will be reviewed every five years and progress on measures to improve air quality set out in this strategy will be outlined in an Annual Air Quality Report published by Cork City Council.

The launch of the Air Quality Strategy is part of Cork City Councils continued work to make Cork City a healthy city. This year the council will plant over 1,300 native Irish trees in parks and public open spaces across the city including varieties such as Birch, Oak, Holly, Hazel, Bird Cherry and Maple.

And this year, pollinator-friendly plants will make up 70% of the Council’s approximate 120,000 summer bedding plants. Next year, we plan to plant another 1,500 trees across the city and we are calling on communities to support us in these efforts.

The Council have placed 100 tiered planters containing pollinator friendly flowers across the city, supplied residents’ groups with 2,000 seed bombs and have added an additional 4,500 perennial plants at new locations such as Victoria Road Roundabout, Shalom Park, Kennedy Park, Grattan Street, Patrick’s Quay, Mardyke Walk and Mahon Golf course. Cork City Council is focussed on creating a city of sustainable urban growth so that as the city grows, its quality of life is not impacted.

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