SOUTHAMPTON’S clean air plan has been signed off by central government, with Westminster pledging more than £1.8 million to help combat nitrogen dioxide levels in the city.

Agreed back in January after more than a year of debate and preparation, the city council’s plan included pollution-reducing methods such as new bus regulations, removing the most environmentally unfriendly taxis from the roads, encouraging taxi firms to use electric vehicles, and reducing private vehicle use.

Now the local authority has been given £1,807,303 from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to implement the plan, which aims to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to 40mg by 2020.

Civic chiefs say it currently sits at around 42mg.

However, proposals to support shore side power – which allows ships at port to run on electrical energy, instead of leaving its polluting engine on – were rejected.

Nevertheless, the authority says it will “continue to pursue other opportunities” and are “committed” to working with the port to get the tech installed through other funding means.

On the almost £2 million cash injection, Councillor Steve Leggett, cabinet member for Green City, said: “This funding announcement is welcome news. Now we can move forward with our ambitious plans to make the city a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live, visit and work.”

As reported, the scheme was criticised by campaigners after civic chiefs chose to drop plans for an up-to-£100 commercial charging zone – which was originally the authority’s preferred option.

Civic chiefs said that the non-charging measures would still bring air quality levels to within legal limits, negating the need for a charging zone.

In detail, the new regulations include:

•Support for delivery service planning and freight consolidation for HGV operations in Southampton

•Introduction of citywide traffic regulation condition requiring a minimum euro 6 standard on all bus routes

•The introduction of new taxi licensing conditions requiring a minimum euro 6 diesel euro 4 petrol for newly licensed vehicles in 2020 and all vehicles by 2023

•Promotion of active and sustainable travel on the A3024

•Expansion of low emission taxi incentive scheme for Southampton licensed taxis

•Offering a free trial scheme for taxi operators to consider the benefits of electric vehicles

•Introduction of further charging points to support uptake of electric vehicles

•Additional monitoring and evaluation of air quality and improvement measures

The council also said that despite the funding just being announced, work on the introduction of these measures is already underway, the council says.

Civic chiefs add that it will sit alongside existing measures being delivered through the council’s Clean Air Strategy and also measures introduced as part of its new Green City Charter.