WEST Berkshire Council says it believes a new proposed junction diverting traffic from the A339 into Cheap Street will help improve pollution levels in Newbury.
The heavily-congested ‘Burger King junction’ was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) by West Berkshire Council in May 2009.
Monitoring data showed that in 2008 the average nitrogen dioxide concentration at the junction was more than a third above Government targets of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, while on 61 occasions during morning and evening rush hours, the levels exceeded the Government’s hourly target.
At a recent West Berkshire Council meeting, Wash Common resident Peter Norman asked: “Does the council accept that poor air quality as a result of road pollution is a major killer in this country and a significant factor in the rise of respiratory diseases in our youngsters?”
To which the portfolio holder for community resilience and partnerships, Marcus Franks (Con, Speen), answered: “In line with the most recent briefing for directors of public health, which was in March 2017, the evidence base for linking long-term exposure of everyday air pollutants over several years contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and respiratory disease.
“It also states that there is a disproportionate impact on the young, the old, the sick and the poor.
“Adding to this, recent reports from both Defra and Public Health England do highlight the link between air pollution and road traffic, as you highlighted in your question.”
Mr Norman responded by asking whether the council was concerned about building a new proposed junction into Cheap Street.
He added: “In addition, the new junction at Fleming Road, which is directly opposite a skate park and a child’s playground, has no screening against it whatsoever.
“So is this a detrimental step, in terms of our managing air quality locally?’’
Mr Franks replied: “In my mind, the improvements to the A339 that are out for consultation at the minute, should go towards, certainly in the short term, helping the air quality at the junction you mentioned because most of it is down to sitting traffic.
“If that traffic is moving it is actually easing the issue.
“There are other things I think we can look at and can bring in, along with colleagues across highways, transport and public health.”