Concern at lack of action on air pollution

January 02 2020

LACK of action on air pollution is killing people in South Gloucestershire, councillors claim.

New research linking higher air pollution with hundreds of heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma attacks every year was discussed at a council scrutiny commission.

Councillors expressed frustration that they had seen countless air quality monitoring reports but were still waiting on plans to address air quality from South Gloucestershire Council and the West of England Combined Authority (Weca).

Commission co-chair Ian Boulton (Lab, Staple Hill) said councillors had been "fobbed off" that air quality was going to be the responsibility of Weca, adding: “Here we are now...two or three years into Weca, and we’re still having air quality monitoring reports with no action. And meanwhile, there are people who are dying because of poor air quality in our neighbourhoods. “We need to see a plan for improvement.”

Ruth Davis (Lib Dem, Yate Central) said: “It wouldn’t be so bad if some of the reports we get to see were going in the righ direction, but they’re not.”

The scrutiny commission resolved in July to begin an in-depth review of air quality, including an examination of an air quality plan led by the council. But members heard officers planned to roll the air quality plan into the council’s climate change strategy. Cllr Boulton said he was concerned the move would “dilute” the two issues.

He said: “Climate change is massive and it’s important. Air quality, potentially, is killing people right now and can potentially be dealt with with existing technologies and in a shorter period of time."

Cllr Davis said the council needed to "get on" with action on air quality, adding: "The longer they take, more people will die.” 

Following the meeting, a council spokesman said: “Across the council, we have taken a large number of actions to tackle air quality, particularly in our Air Quality Management Areas, and this has resulted in an improving picture of air quality in South Gloucestershire."

The spokesman pointed to action including fitting buses with emissions reducing technology, making the council's pool car fleet electric, and the air quality action scheme to reduce pollution at the Hambrook traffic lights by banning vehicles from making some turns  there.

He added: "We are currently developing a council-wide approach to air quality, bringing together services which have an interest and/ or impact on air quality. It is anticipated that a council-wide Clean Air Strategy will complement the council’s existing Climate Change Strategy."

The spokesman said that, as the primary source of both greenhouse gases and air pollutants was burning fossil fuels, "the solutions to reduce carbon and air quality pollutants are largely the same”.