The Chief Officer – Legal, HR and Regulatory Services submitted a report, the purpose of which, was to seek approval for the 2020 Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) Annual Progress Report (APR) based upon on air quality datasets obtained in 2019. The report required Cabinet approval in order to submit a final version to Welsh Government (WG) before the 30th September 2020, as well as to consider the Draft Action Plan in respect of air emissions at Park Street, Bridgend.
She then introduced Officers from Shared Regulatory Services (SRS) to present the report.
Members were advised, that under Section 82 of the Environment Act 1995 every local authority has an obligation to regularly review and assess air quality in their areas, and to determine whether or not air quality objectives to protect health are likely to be achieved. Where the air quality reviews indicate that the air quality objectives are not being achieved, or are not likely to be achieved, Section 83 of the 1995 Act requires local authorities to designate an Air Quality Management Area (‘AQMA’). Section 84 of the Act ensures that action must then be taken at a local level which is outlined in a specific Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) to ensure that air quality in the identified area improves.
The Annual Progress Report, annexed at Appendix 1 to the main report, provided details on the ratified data for the air quality monitoring undertaken in 2019 within BCBC.
The Park Street, Bridgend AQMA Order was officially implemented on the 1st January 2019. The area comprising the Bridgend County Borough Council Air Quality Management Area Order No. 1, Park Street is outlined by Figure 1, shown on the plan at paragraph 4.1 of the report.
This 2020 Annual Progress Report (APR) outlined the revisions made to the NO2 non-automatic monitoring network utilised in Bridgend for 2019. Existing non-automatic NO2 monitoring locations were decommissioned due to continued compliance and new NO2 monitoring locations were commissioned to strengthen understanding in existing monitored areas, such as the Park Street AQMA and Cowbridge Road.
This 2020 APR does confirm that in 2019 air quality continues to be a prevalent concern along Park Street coinciding with the geographical boundary of the Park Street, Bridgend AQMA Order raised on the 1st January 2019. It is also noted that elevated annual average air quality levels exist in close proximity to Park Street along adjoining road networks where relevant exposure is apparent. Figure 2 depicts the non-automated monitoring sites located in and around the Park Street AQMA. Further details regarding this, were explained in the report.
It was essential that the highlighted monitoring sites are closely examined and suitable action is taken where necessary. Such action may involve amendments to the Park Street AQMA Order, including revisions of the geographical boundary to encapsulate a wider area and reasoning for declaration.
In addition to the non-automated monitoring network specific to the Park Street AQMA, it is imperative that SRS/ BCBC improve the air quality monitoring capabilities along Park Street by introducing an automated air quality monitoring system (AMS).
As part of the LAQM statutory duties, from the date of raising the AQMA Order (in this instance 1st January 2019) SRS and BCBC has 18 months in which to prepare a DRAFT Action Plan to improve air quality in the area, and once agreed, this plan must be formally adopted before two years has elapsed.
In order to develop ideas and ensure an effective AQAP which considers all aspects, prioritising public health, an AQAP Work Steering Group has been put together consisting of representatives from Bridgend County Borough Council’s various departments, as well as persons from the local PSBs.
Agreed by the AQAP Working Steering Group and coincided with the feedback received at the December 2019 public engagement sessions, the extent of the air quality levels examined on Park Street are derived by the nature of traffic flows utilising the network. Queuing and inconsistent traffic flows would appear to be the principal cause of the portrayed poor air quality levels.
Following the indicative Cost Benefit Analysis a decision was made by the AQAP Work Steering Group to pursue those mitigation options that will manage and improve traffic flows through the Park Street AQMA and in doing so deliver air quality improvements in the shortest time possible, and in line with the ambitions of Welsh Government and BCBC; reduce levels to as low as reasonably practicable.
SRS Officers then explained some suggested proposals by which to achieve the above.
The Officers then concluded their report, by advising that Air quality data collection has been deemed as an essential service by Welsh Government, whereby monitoring was resumed for May 2020. The results for 2020, which will be recorded in the 2021 Annual Progress Report will need to be corrected/ ratified to account for the gaps in the annual datasets incurred by the COVID situation.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing commended the report and the amount of hard work that had gone into this, including drop-in sessions at Halo at the end of last year.
She also thanked the local Members of the Ward covering the Park Street area, for their contributions. She highlighted the report was based on 2019 data that supported findings in 2018 arising from the Area Management Order, put in place, as a result of queuing of traffic flows in this area of Bridgend.
The Cabinet Member – Future Generations and Wellbeing also extended her thanks to those members of the public who had also been involved in consultations with herself, SRS staff, the local members and other Council staff regarding this issue, which was a public health problem. The nitrogen dioxide levels needed to be reduced in Park Street to as low as possible as soon as possible. The proposals contained in the Local Air Quality Management Action Plan would be monitored going forward, including any measures as of yet not implemented, she added.
The Leader noted that a suggestion had been made that in order to address the above problem, a by-pass road could be facilitated at this location, ie near the foot of Park Street by the traffic lights, to alleviate some of the traffic congestion and air quality problems. However, he felt that this was a considerable resource issue and that the provision of this, would probably displace the problem and cause more traffic problems/air quality issues elsewhere.
A SRS Officers advised that there were a number of mitigating solutions being considered as part of the Local Air Quality Management Control proposals, though these had to be both viable and achievable options, which also needed to be implemented within an appropriate timescale.
The Head of Operations – Community Services echoed that the provision of a by-pass road would prove to be a very expensive option to pursue in order to provide a possible solution to the problem. Other mitigating factors could be looked at he added, such as the encouragement of more ultra-low carbon emission vehicles being used by the public, which was high on the Government’s agenda and ways to prevent the idling of vehicles at locations such as Park Street, though this was always difficult on the highway network where there were traffic lights, where vehicles would as a matter of course be held up in traffic. The further use of Active Travel routes could also contribute towards a solution, he added.
The Cabinet Member – Education and Regeneration concluded debate on the report, by stating that a long term possibility worth considering, was a cycling/walking route from Penyfai to Cefn Glas, particularly given that the stretch of highway that presently existed between these two locations, was highly dangerous to cycle or walk along.
RESOLVED: That Cabinet:
(1) Noted and accepted the results of air quality monitoring gathered in 2019.
(2) Noted the progress made in developing the Air Quality Action Plan for Park Street, and endorse the decision to proceed with detailed transportation and air quality assessments to help quantify the impact the favoured measures could have on air quality within the Park Street, Bridgend AQMA
(3) Agreed the finalisation of the 2020 Annual Progress Report (as attached at Appendix 1 to the report) for submission as a final version to Welsh Government before 30th September 2020.