COUNCILS in the North-East could be pressed to develop innovative proposals for their local area that will bring pollution levels within the legal limits within the shortest time possible.

The move would come alongside a “targeted” scrappage scheme to get older, more polluting vehicles off the roads could be introduced as part of efforts to tackle illegal air pollution, the Government has said.

In plans published for consultation, the Government said there could be central funding for local measures ranging from redesigning roads to boosting infrastructure for walking, cycling and electric vehicles.

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Documents published by the Government suggest the most effective way of cutting nitrogen dioxide is thought to be implementing “clean air zones” in 27 towns and cities where air pollution levels are illegally high. The proposals follow the European Commission sending a “final warning” to the UK in February for failing to address repeated breaches of legal air pollution limits in 16 areas including Teesside.

The Government documents state four areas in the North-East - Middlesbrough, Newcastle, South Tyneside and Gateshead - are among 38 in the country with one or more roads forecast persistently to exceed nitrogen dioxide legal limits based on initial modelling and assuming no additional measures.

And there could be support for councils which wanted to retrofit vehicles to cut air pollution from local bus, taxi or HGV fleets.

Ministers were ordered to draw up the new clean air plans following a court challenge by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, with the High Court ruling that existing government proposals to meet EU-mandated pollution limits were not sufficient.

The Environment Department lost a High Court bid to delay revealing the draft plans to reduce illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from diesel vehicles, until after the General Election.

Measures implemented in the zones could include charging motorists who drive the dirtiest vehicles, such as the “ultra low emissions zone” that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is implementing in the capital.

The proposals also include tackling road humps and poorly managed traffic lights and pollution, and better consumer advice when buying cars.