Councillors have backed the idea for a car free day in St Albans, as part of a bid to put the spotlight on climate change and the environment.

Other cities in the UK – such as London and Edinburgh – have already held car free days.

Labour councillor Malachy Packenham last Wednesday (October 9) presented the idea to a meeting of St Albans District Council.

The event could not be held without the support of Hertfordshire County Council, in its role as highways authority.

But now St Albans District Council will approach the county council in a bid to develop plans for a St Albans District Car Free Day in 2020.

At the meeting, Cllr Packenham – who has never owned a car – said the Roman city was never designed for the volume of cars today.

He pointed to the "over-usage" of cars and to a recent study that suggested the average speed for motorists in St Albans was just 18mph.

He said a car free day would encourage residents to think about car usage on a day where it is practical not to use cars.

He stressed the motion was not designed to dictate to people that they should not use cars – but to "nudge" them to think about their actions.

Backing the motion, Liberal Democrat council leader Chris White said he would be interested to talk to councillors further to determine whether this should be district-wide.

Conservative councillor Mary Maynard said this was an “excellent” motion on an issue that “should concern us all”.

She pointed to the high levels of car ownership in St Albans – meaning that in many instances cars were used for one person rather than families, pushing up the use of local roads.

However she cautioned against making this mandatory, which she said residents would resist.

She highlighted the different travel experiences of those living a few miles out of the city who may not be able to comply with this.

And she said the way it was implemented would be important, to avoid it impacting on the shops in the city centre.

Conservative Wheathampstead councillor Gillian Clark said living in a village with a “lousy” bus service did not make it an easy option to do away with a car.

“It may be there needs to be places for us to park on the outskirts – so we can get a local buses to get in to the centre of the town,” she said, especially for those who found walking or cycling difficult.

In response to concerns, it was stressed that this would just be for a token one day a year.

Liberal Democrat councillor Liz Needham said: “There’s no implication that people are going to be forced to give up their cars, there won’t be any petrol stations closed, there won’t be any car parks closed.

“If people choose on the day to use their cars there will be nothing to stop them. It is just a token gesture.”

Meanwhile Independent and Green Cllr Simon Grover said the nervousness from the proposal for one car free day, was an indication of the challenge the council has in meeting the climate change targets.

The motion – instructing the council to seek to develop the idea with the county council – was backed unanimously by the meeting of the full council.