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Celebrating Clean Air Day

blue sky and clouds

We celebrated Clean Air Day on Thursday 17 June with a renewed commitment to improving air quality in our beautiful borough. 

In addition to our work to reduce air pollution, we are excited to confirm that Sunday 26 September will be Car Free Day in Guildford.

A report by APSE Energy, part of the Association for Public Service Excellence, shows that net greenhouse gas emissions from our activities fell by over 21% between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The total fell from 10,998 tonnes in 2016-17 to 8,586 tonnes in 2019-20. Gross emissions have also fallen 45% from our 2008-09 levels, to 8,613 tonnes, with a further 27 tonnes of CO2 being saved through us generating green electricity. We achieved our 2020 target of a 43% reduction in CO2 emissions, based on 2009 levels, a year early in 2019. 

We have adopted Air Quality Action Plans for Shalford and Compton where Air Quality Management Areas have been declared to introduce measures that will improve air quality. We are monitoring air quality at 33 locations across the borough, including main roads leading into the town centre, to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide, which can harm the lungs. We are also working with Highways England on plans to improve air quality along parts of the A3 as it passes through Guildford.

Lead Councillor for Climate Change, Cllr Jan Harwood says: 

"Improving air quality in the borough is one of our highest priorities. Air quality can be a major factor in the health of a community, particularly in making existing health conditions worse and increasing the impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19). Air pollution causes up to 36,000 deaths in the UK every year, and NHS England attribute 5% of deaths of people over 30 to air pollution. We are therefore more conscious than ever of the air that we are breathing. We must do all we can on a local level to protect our residents and visitors and become more environmentally sustainable by leading the way in making positive changes to reduce our carbon footprint. 

"In the last decade, we have invested approximately £10 million on energy-saving projects to make significant carbon reductions across our own estate and in our social housing. We are collaborating more closely with partners and the wider community to play an even greater part in creating a more sustainable future. 

"We also want to confirm that climate change would be the main priority for any future unitary authority in Surrey, including the consideration of a Citizens' Assembly on Climate Change. Following our talks with Surrey County Council's Director of Environment, to identify shared objectives on transport, air pollution and renewable energy for residents and businesses, we have identified opportunities to work together, share expertise, and develop exciting projects. 

"On Clean Air Day, everyone can do their bit by making some small changes to their lifestyle and daily routine: walking, cycling or using public transport more, turning off your engine if you are stopped at a junction or outside a school for more than 10 seconds, buying local produce, and not burning waste can all make a real difference."

Alongside our efforts to reduce air pollution, we are also helping residents to reduce their carbon footprints. Through the Solar Together solar panel installation initiative, residents can now save money and help reduce carbon emissions with other members of our community by installing solar panels on their homes. The scheme, run by Surrey County Council and supported by us, offers great value installations and helps our borough's homeowners feel confident that they are paying the right price for high-quality solar panels and battery storage by purchasing as part of a borough-wide group. Visit https://solartogether.co.uk/guildford to register. Registration is free, and there is no obligation to buy.  

We installed new solar PV panels at our Millmead House offices and Farnham Road car park in April to almost triple the amount of solar energy we generate for our own buildings. In total, our solar generation now produces 195,401kWh per year - the equivalent of powering 49 houses - to help power our offices and other buildings. We also have solar panel arrays at our Dray Court, Japonica Court and St Martins Court sheltered housing facilities, and the Spectrum Leisure Centre. Our Crematorium, which was renovated in 2020, uses solar panels to provide two-thirds of its electricity. All emissions at the Crematorium have harmful pollutants and nitrogen dioxide removed. 

The University of Surrey's iSCAPE (Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe), GCARE (Global Centre for Clean Air Research) and Living Lab projects have made Guildford a world-class hub for research and innovation in tackling air pollution and climate change. Their work with local communities, including schools and businesses, has improved air quality in the borough whilst creating strategies of worldwide importance. 

We provide many options to help people reduce the number of car journeys they make. easitGUILDFORD offers discounts on rail and bus travel, plus reduced bike and car hire, to employees of participating businesses. 12 organisations, representing approximately 8000 staff, have joined. 
 

We are awaiting delivery of 10 new electric minibuses to form part of our Community Transport fleet. These will increase the percentage of electric vehicles in our Light Commercial Vehicles fleet to 20.84%, and are part of our commitment to ensure our LCV fleet is fully electric by 2030. This follows the introduction of nine Park and Ride buses, which are the largest fleet of electric buses outside of London, built locally by Alexander Dennis Ltd.  

Any cars hired by our staff must now be hybrid or fully electric, and we are monitoring the development of hydrogen and electric technology for heavy vehicles, including refuse collection lorries, with a view to removing diesel vehicles from our fleet. In collaboration with Surrey County Council we are installing more electric vehicle charging points across the borough. Electric vehicles also qualify for reduced parking permit fees, whilst our smartphone parking app directs motorists to the cheapest and closest parking spaces. 

Our Climate Change, Sustainable Design, Construction and Energy planning document, helps all new housing developments to have lower carbon emissions, be more sustainable and better able to meet the challenge of climate change. All of our developments already meet Passivhaus energy efficiency standards, and all new buildings in the borough have to meet a carbon emissions rate which is at least 20% better than national Building Regulations standards. We encourage housing developers to reduce the carbon in their building materials and will continue to promote the highest possible standards in efficiency. 

In collaboration with our partners at Surrey County Council, the University of Surrey, Guildford Environmental Forum, Highways England, the Environment Agency, easit network, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Surrey Environment Partnership, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Plastic Free Guildford, Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership and Surrey Air Alliance, as well as local residents, we continue to protect and enhance Guildford's future. 

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