Review of Air Quality Management Area
Consider the revisions and comment as necessary.
Presentation by Gareth Jones, Senior Environmental Health Officer
This item was taken after agenda items 10, 11 and 12.
Gareth Jones, Senior Environmental Health Officer referred members to the PowerPoint presentation that had been circulated in advance of the meeting and proceeded to talk through key points of that presentation.
He started by explaining the difference between local air quality and climate change: climate change was a global issue, the effects of which would not necessarily be visible locally and air quality effected areas of up to 20 to 30 meters from a road. The solutions however, were very similar: fewer private cars, particularly diesels and increased cycling, walking and public transport, as well as cleaner energy production and reduced consumption.
The council’s responsibilities were set out in law, specifically the Environment Act 1995, which also included the relevant limits, though he noted that these would likely change in the near future. The main concern in Cheltenham was NO2 which derived entirely from traffic and levels were measured using NOx tubes at 29 locations around the town and AQ station at St. George’s Street. Particulates came from a wider range of sources, including tyres and brakes, even those of electric vehicles and were of increasing note. Measured by mesh pods at 9 locations across Cheltenham, levels were not close to (current) limits.
In 2011 the borough-wide AQMA was adopted, because there were 5 failure areas and it was felt that it would be counter-productive to write 5 separate plans and risk displacing the problem from one area to another. Results showed that whilst the annual average of NO2 had breached the limit, the short-term limit had not and PM10 levels were nowhere near breaching, however, the limits were likely to be reduced. It was noted that these results were all available on the website.
The outline was approved by DEFRA in 2018/19 and the detailed assessment confirmed the need to re-define the AQMA. By law the council had to revoke the existing borough-wide AQMA and simultaneously declare a new, smaller one. The map showed the sausage shaped area that the new AQMA would cover and this would include all properties with a façade onto the roads (29 commercial and 79 residential properties) and approximately 120 residents. It would take another 12 months to develop a new action plan and outline ideas included working with Stagecoach, though their fleet was comparatively cleaner than others, Royal Mail and works to the traffic lights. He stressed that this would require input from GCC, who coincidentally had a large Climate Change fund and any action in terms of climate change would positively impact the air quality in Cheltenham.
The Senior Environmental Health Officer gave the following responses to member questions:
· Results in January, February and March were worse because more people drove in colder weather and the cold weather meant pollutants would take longer to dissipate.
· Longer-term results showed a small decline, which was consistent with the rest of the country.
· Whilst the AQMA would be smaller, no existing monitoring points would be removed, except the 6 that were strategically located to monitor the diversions that were in place for Phase 4 of the Cheltenham Plan. In fact, monitoring would increase to 38 locations, from 29 at present.
· The mesh pods were able to measure PM down to 2.5 and these were easily recalibrated.
· The action plan was out of date and required significant revision to reflect areas suffering the worst problems. Efforts needed to be focussed on areas where levels were in breach or marginal.
· The AQMA reflected the areas where legal limits were being breached and other locations reflected areas where limits were marginal or changing areas where a level of verification was needed. It was possible to monitor any area but this would prove very expensive. Members were welcome to contact him directly with questions about particular areas.
· Colleagues at Stroud District Council were monitoring the area around the new incinerator very closely and would flag any concerns with CBC if further investigation was required.
· There were baseline figures for the AQMA and the areas around it.
· Pollutant levels by vehicle were available online, but members were warned to take account of who had commissioned a particular study.
· The traffic lights would go towards addressing the number of vehicles but there was also a question about how to address the different types of vehicle using these roads.
· A mesh pod would be located outside of a school on a busy road in Cheltenham and it was possible to increase the frequency at which it sent data, from the standard 15 minutes down to every minute, but there would create a resource issue in terms of the data handling required. It was always possible to redeploy pods to other schools if required. It was noted that GCC, who were ultimately responsible for Schools, had done a project with schools in the town, whereby they had taken measurements during term-time and again at half term, but he personally, didn’t feel this had been the most scientific of projects.
· He agreed with various members that dealing with the school run would be key in dealing with climate change and air quality and whilst it was not possible to force people not to drive their children to school, he felt that the data would help persuade people to make different choices.
The committee agreed that they would make a formal request that Cabinet consider funding short-term monitoring outside of schools across the town.
The Chairman thanked the Senior Environmental Health Officer and asked that he, and colleagues from GCC be invited to come back in 6 months to talk about schools specifically.