Air Quality Management in Swansea

(Statement in response to an item on the agenda for today’s Council Meeting – see details of original question and Cabinet member’s response below)

This response from the Cabinet Member for Place (Councillor June Burtonshaw) is merely a re-statement of the facts.  It contains no good news for the people of Swansea.

By admitting that, “Our Action Plan cannot deliver compliance any more quickly …” Councillor Burtonshaw is confirming that Swansea does not have “an effective scheme of remediation for air quality”.

It’s to be hoped that the bland wording of this statement does not indicate a lack of ambition or willingness to deal with this problem on the part of the council.

Swansea Council has been monitoring air quality since 1994, but it then took 16 years until the first Air Quality Management Area was declared (Hafod in 2010).

A great deal of work has been done in response to the EU requirements, with the Welsh Assembly introducing specific Regulations in 2000 and 2002 designed to see Wales complying with EU targets.

Unfortunately the majority of this work seems to have been around monitoring and developing strategies, and very little seems to have been done to actually improve air quality in Swansea.

Indeed, the previous administration seemed intent on making the problem worse with various high profile schemes designed to increase the number of cars coming into the city, rather than providing better and more regular public transport for example.

The introduction of the ‘Nowcaster’ system may seem like a step in the right direction, but it will only enable people to avoid areas of high pollution, it will do nothing to solve the problem in the long term.

It is deeply disappointing to learn that the residents of Hafod, Fforestfach and Sketty (and possibly other areas of Swansea) are going to have to continue to suffer from poor air quality for at least another eight years; and that “a further report will need to be submitted … probably recommending further variations to the Swansea air-quality management area.”  The people of Swansea need action, not more words.

According to the World Heath Organisation air pollution is a significant risk factor for multiple health conditions including respiratory infections, heart disease, and lung cancer.  Because children spend more time outdoors and have higher breathing rates than adults, they are more susceptible to the dangers of air pollution.

The longer we have poor air quality in Swansea, the greater the risk to residents of the city and the greater the burden on our already struggling health services.

In their manifesto for the local council elections earlier this year Labour set out an ambitious vision for “a safer, greener, smarter, fairer, healthier, richer, Swansea”.  One way they could demonstrate this ambition would be to take early and decisive action to improve air quality throughout the city and county.

Keith M Ross, Swansea Green Party

 

The original question to the administration was:

Councillors P M Meara, C A Holley, C L Philpott and R J Stanton

The last Area 1 Planning Committee was advised that an application to convert a Public House into an HMO should be rejected on the grounds that the air quality in Landore was in breach of EU guidelines, and the Council could not condone further housing developments while this was the case.

Would the Cabinet Member for Place like to comment on the implications of this for further domestic planning applications in Landore and other areas affected by poor air quality?

Can she also reassure Council that we have in place an effective scheme of remediation for air quality in Landore, Fforestfach and Sketty, and can she provide a set of dates by which she expects air quality in these areas to be restored to an acceptable level?

Response of the Cabinet Member for Place:

Within the County there are a number of areas which are failing air-quality targets. These are set by the European Commission and form part of the UK air quality strategy which has been backed up by legally binding targets set down in various air-quality regulations. Since 1995 the Council has taken part in the national scheme to deliver these targets, this has resulted in declaring air-quality management areas (AQMAs) covering certain parts of the County.

Initially the first area declared was the Hafod, but this was followed by further areas in 2010. Currently the latest annual review has just been completed and is ready for submission to the Welsh Government. This identifies a continuing problem with air-quality in these areas but also identifies further areas which may need to be included within the air quality management area for Swansea.

This report will be reviewed by expert auditors on behalf of the Welsh Government, but we will also be reporting these findings to Cabinet as soon as possible. It is clear from our latest review that compliance is unlikely in the short-term and in some parts of Sketty, Fforestfach and Hafod we will not have compliance until after 2020.

Clearly air quality is a material planning consideration and is often mentioned in planning committee reports. Some applications may give rise to comment for positive or negative reasons and these are discussed on a case-by-case basis.

There is no presumption against housing developments in AQMAs but clearly increasing the resident population in a failing area is undesirable. Some applications offer other benefits which then have to be weighed against the air quality issue. National and local policy suggests that we should not allow applications which adversely impact upon public health because of either aggravating air quality failures or increasing the exposed population.

In line with our statutory obligations, the Council has an Air Quality Action Plan which has to be regularly reviewed in a report to the Welsh Government. An additional complication at the present time is the ongoing discussion between the European Commission and the UK Government over a compliance deadline.

Swansea along with certain other areas in the UK has missed the compliance deadline for Nitrogen dioxide and the Commission have not agreed to a time extension. This infraction process is subject to considerable debate between DEFRA, the devolved administrations and the European Commission. Our Action Plan cannot deliver compliance any more quickly, although some of the measures (such as our “nowcaster sytem”) will mitigate problems on the worst days and thereby reduce the number of houses affected. Hopefully the failing areas will reduce in size as we bring in different measures as part of the action plan process.

A further report will need to be submitted to Cabinet and full Council updating members on these issues and probably recommending further variations to the Swansea air-quality management area.

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One response to this post.

  1. Finally got my name on the front page of the Evening Post yesterday (19 October) – repeated in the main article inside: ‘Warning over growing threat to air pollution

    Reply

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