Wed, 15 Aug 2018
AIR pollution is “not a problem” in West Berkshire – but residents “have a responsibility” to ditch their cars in favour of taking public transport whenever possible to ensure it stays that way.
That was the view of the district council’s executive member for highways and transport, Jeanette Clifford (Con, Northcroft), when she was quizzed on the subject at a recent public meeting.
In response to a question from her Lib Dem counterpart, Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale), Mrs Clifford said that the latest findings showed that levels of nitrogen dioxide had decreased.
However, she encouraged residents to walk, cycle and take the bus or train to ensure those levels are kept under control.
In May 2009, the area around the Burger King roundabout in Newbury was declared an air quality management area after the average nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels were found to exceed government targets.
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 the executive meeting on Thursday, July 26, Mr Macro asked his opposite number what the council was doing to reduce pollution and emissions from vehicles queueing for the Thatcham level crossing.
Giving a wider answer covering what was being done across the whole district, Mrs Clifford said: “Thank you for your timely question.
“It’s timely because the 2018 air quality report has just been submitted to Defra.
“It’s yet to be published, but I can give you advance notice that it will confirm that levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is the pollutant we are most concerned about here in West Berkshire, have declined over a period of five years.
“Air quality in West Berkshire is generally good. This is testament to the hard work, knowledge and commitment of our officers.
“We’re well aware of how fundamental air quality is for health.”
She added that the council had developed an air quality strategy which included improving traffic flow on to the A339 and opposing planning applications that have a negative impact on air quality.
Mrs Clifford added that the council had invested in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, including upgrading the cycle path on the A4 between Newbury and Thatcham.
She went on to say: “We’re improving public transport, we’re working on railway stations, building a better bus station in Newbury, all our vehicles in our public transport are at least Euro4 standard.”
Mrs Clifford also said that the council “carefully and regularly monitors air quality across the district” and each year monitoring stations were assessed to see if they were best located to give data.
“Air quality is a high priority for this council,” said Mrs Clifford.
“While fully acknowledging there is more to do, we’re pleased we’re seeing improvement over time.
“I’ll just end by saying that we as individuals have got responsibilities here.
“We know that the major threat to air quality in West Berkshire comes from road traffic.
“I love my car, but I don’t use it all the time and I think we need to ask ourselves instead of grabbing car keys, whether we can travel by foot, or by bike, or by public transport.”