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Southend Council is set to spend up to £600,000 on air quality specialists who will help advise the council on how to make improvements to the environment.
Councillor Carole Mulroney, who oversees the environment, confirmed £120,000 will be set aside each year for five years and will be in addition to the millions due to be spent on electric charge points and tree planting.
The announcement in the proposed 2020/21 budget comes after the council declared a climate emergency last year and pledge to go carbon neutral in just 10 years.
“Air pollution is a massive issue and one we are looking at in particular,” Ms Mulroney said.
“We’ve got £120,000 for dedicated air quality specialists who will guide us through the problems we have and give support to the planning department as they work on the Local Plan.”
Southend’s Local Plan has been in development for several months and could require the council to build up to 24,000 new homes over the next 20 years. In September the campaign group ClimateEarth warned the council that if their plans fail to properly consider the environmental impact of the housing, they would be at risk of a legal challenge.
Council documents explain that the additional support will allow all planning applications to be reviewed for health considerations and for detailed assessments of potential issues such as noise complaints or contaminated land.
Another £2.2million could also be spent over the next five years on installing extra electric car charge points, some of which will be for specific use by taxis. The money will also help boost the council’s use of solar panels.
A further £1million could be spent on planting trees over the same period, with £200,000 going on the planting of 2,500 new shrubs in areas where tree planting is not possible.
Ms Mulroney continued: “We already committed to planting 1,000 extra trees this season and that is underway. Added on to that, trees aren’t the only answer so we are looking to plant another 2,500 shrubs.”
Coastal defences and flood prevention will also be improved with an extra £6.8million of investment.
Ms Mulroney also reaffirmed her ambition to get extra government funding to support the council’s pledge to go carbon neutral by 2030. Last year it was revealed that to accomplish this, it could cost up to £1.5billion.
She said: “The government has accepted the fact this is something you can’t brush under the carpet and as more council pass the emergencies, which is running around the country, I think the pressure is on.
“We’ll be trying to do this through the Local Government Association, which is the body that lobbies the government on these issues, and I think we need to focus on this.”