Shropshire Star

New 'air quality' plans to be considered by councillors

Improving air quality outside schools and care homes is part of the council’s draft Air Quality Strategy, being considered next week.

One of the areas of focus will be improving air quality outside schools.

Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the strategy which sets a framework for managing and improving air quality across the borough.

A report to the cabinet states that air quality in the borough is ‘overall very good’ and the monitoring of Nitrogen Dioxide across 27 locations prove that they meet the national thresholds.

The council has no Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) in place, which are implemented in areas of the country where concentrated levels of emissions are higher than permitted levels.

Every year the council submits an annual air quality report to Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) detailing air pollution levels.

“Although the borough satisfies national air quality thresholds and does not have an AQMA in force, Defra expects local authorities to prepare and publish an Air Quality Strategy to both manage and improve air quality locally that will support public health outcomes,” says a report to the council’s cabinet.

“Compared to other parts of the West Midlands, and other towns and cities across the UK, air quality in Telford and Wrekin is relatively good.

“In fact, it is identified as one of the benefits of living here, alongside its green and natural environment. We want to ensure that it stays that way, as we welcome new residents and workers through planned growth over the next 20 years.”

The three ‘key aims’ of the Air Quality Strategy are: maintain and improve air quality; tackle air quality inequalities by prioritising action to benefit vulnerable groups and communities; link air quality to the climate agenda with a focus on emission reductions, for carbon as well as air pollutants.

The council state that they are ‘are particularly focussed’ on benefits for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.

“Communities and vulnerable groups (children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions) generally contribute the least to air pollution but are often those most exposed and affected,” says a draft Air Quality Strategy document.

“In implementing the Air Quality Strategy, the council will seek to tackle these inequalities by prioritising action to benefit vulnerable groups and communities across urban and rural settings.

“The council will identify priority areas by mapping the locations of schools, nurseries, care homes and health facilities.

“These priority areas will be reviewed against air quality monitoring locations, to identify any local issues.

“The implementation of measures will also be reviewed alongside the maps of priority areas, to ensure vulnerable groups and communities benefit from the measures applied.

“We will also help people to understand what they can do to improve their health and local air quality.”

The council were given £147,000 by Defra in 2022 for a pilot project focussed on promoting positive behaviour change at schools, including promotion of active travel and road safety initiatives.

“The project is currently underway and through engagement with schools the content will include education and engagement to increase awareness of antiidling, develop co-designed graphics and promote sustainable travel options,” adds the report.

“The project will make use of air quality monitoring to show the impact of reducing car use to travel to school with behaviour change captured prior and post project delivery.”

The strategy states that any new development or proposal for change to existing developments ‘should deliver an overall benefit to public health’, reducing pollution, supporting walking, cycling and clean public transport, as well as providing infrastructure for low emission vehicles.

The link between measures reducing carbon emissions and air quality benefits aims to be linked in the strategy.

It adds that biomass burners are considered ‘low carbon’ but can emit high levels of particulate matter.

Electric vehicles reduce emissions of carbon and air pollutants from the tailpipe, but there are emissions associated with brake and tyre wear.

“As such, switching to active travel (cycling and walking) instead of travelling by car provides more air quality benefits,” adds the strategy.

Councillors will consider the draft Air Quality Strategy at their cabinet meeting on Thursday.

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