The Committee considered the Update on the Current Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in Carmarthenshire. The Committee noted that the Environment Act 1995 placed a duty on local authorities to assess and manage air quality in its area.
The report provided the Committee with a detailed information of the levels of NO2 specifically within the town of Llandeilo and areas of Carmarthen and Llanelli during 2016, 2017 and 2018.
An Air Quality Management Action Plan for each area was appended to the report which provided identified measures to be considered to improve Air Quality. Following an 8 week formal public consultation period, the Action Plan comments received were incorporated into the “Carmarthen and Llanelli Action Plan” report.
The report noted that actions continued to be implemented as identified on phase 2 of the action plan, and that levels of NO2 were continued to be monitored however, the report had recognised that the only likely long-term viable option for bringing about a permanent and definite improvement to air quality in Llandeilo would be the provision of a by-pass.
The following issues were raised in relation to the report:
· Following a comment that the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport had recently spoken publicly against the Llandeilo by-pass, reference was made to the death of a 9yr old girl who, in 2013, died from breathing difficulties relating to asthma. This together with the recent news of the striking association between the hospital admissions and local spikes in air pollution had been found and that the family of the girl had recently been given permission to apply for a fresh inquest into her death had raised significant concerns for the Committee.
Together with the known air quality monitoring areas within Carmarthenshire evidencing increasing levels of NO2 year on year, a number of strong concerns about public safety were raised. In order to safeguard public safety, the Committee was of the view that something needed to be done to reduce the NO2 levels and in particular to ensure that the Llandeilo by-pass is completed swiftly.
It was therefore proposed, that the Scrutiny Committee write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to express the Committee’s concerns. It was further proposed that a copy of the letter be sent to the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, Lee Waters AM.
The Head of Transportation and Highways provided a verbal update on the current position of the Llandeilo by-pass. The Council had been proactive in lobbying the Wales government to take the scheme forward. The Wales Government had set aside £50m and were currently awaiting the completion of the second stage appraisal of the scheme in accordance with the Welsh Transport Appraisal Guidance (WelTAG) process. The Principal Environmental Health Practitioner, in response to a query raised regarding the air quality at Jobs Well Road, Carmarthen, confirmed that the area was being monitored.
The Head of Transportation and Highways informed the Committee that
the authority had developed and implemented a number of safer
walking/cycling routes to school projects. However, this did involve an element of
behavioural change and packages had been developed to encourage
parents and pupils to change travel behaviours. Reference was made to Appendix 5 of the report
which displayed the NO2passive tube results for
2017. Clarification was sought on why
many of the figures on the spreadsheet symbolised red. The Principal Environmental Health Practitioner
explained that the statutory Air Quality Objective for
NO2 is 40µg/m3
expressed as an annual mean. The figures highlighted in red are for
illustrative purposes only, showing figures for individual months /
locations that exceed 40µg/m3. It was
explained that no conclusions should be made on individual months
alone as it is only the annual mean figure that should be compared
to the Air Quality Objective
· The Principal Environmental Health Practitioner, in response to a comment regarding real-time air quality results, explained that some Local Authorities, (particularly larger cities such as London, Cardiff and Swansea) have fully calibrated monitoring equipment which provide real-time results. However, the Committee was informed that this equipment was very costly and resource heavy in terms of calibration and ongoing maintenance. In addition, the equipment can require a relatively large space in which to be located which is not available at some of our AQMA’s. It was explained that Carmarthenshire uses passive diffusion tubes to monitor NO2 within the County, and this practice complies with relevant guidance and is the most widely used method throughout the UK.
It was further explained that Carmarthenshire has invested in portable indicative monitoring equipment to supplement the use of passive diffusion tubes. This can be useful for Action Plan related work, or specific projects. The Council is working collaboratively with Swansea University who have the same equipment; data obtained is being shared. Information from the equipment is not transmitted in “real time”, but can be obtained remotely when required.
Whist it was recognised that many initiatives to improve air quality were being explored, it was suggested that, in the meantime indicative air quality results could be prominently displayed within hotspot areas to better inform the public of the air quality. The Principal Environmental Health Practitioner advised that monthly NO2 results are uploaded to a website that members of the public are able to view.
With regard to the Councils work towards improving air quality, the Head of Transportation and Highways reported Carmarthenshire had been positively leading the way to reduce its impact on the environment, by rationalising the refuse and highway fleet to one of the most modern and lowest emission fleets. In addition, electric charging points had been installed throughout the County in a bid to further growth in this sector.
the update on the current Air Quality Management Areas in Carmarthenshire be received;