Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Air pollution levels above target limit on 26 days in December

AIR pollution levels in Henley were above the target limit almost every day in December.

The figure was revealed by former mayor Stefan Gawrysiak as he appealed to South Oxfordshire District Council to spend £500,000 in tackling the problem across the district.

He said nitrogen dioxide levels in some Henley streets were more than 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre on 26 days last month.

In some cases, the levels were “substantially” higher than the limit and on one occasion a figure of 350 was recorded.

Councillor Gawrysiak, a town and district councillor, told a meeting of the district council that it should spend much more on “practical measures” to tackle air pollution than the £20,000 currently allocated, which he called “pretty pathetic”.

“This is used to monitor air quality and produce a report for the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,” he said. He appealed to the ruling Conservative group to put “something substantial” into the budget for its low emissions strategy.

The meeting heard that £500,000 would support a range of measures, such as 20mph zones, a reduction in heavy goods vehicles travelling through towns and more use of public transport and electric cars, and allow the employment of a full-time officer.

Cllr Gawrysiak was supported by a number of other councillors but the majority voted against his motion, saying it was premature.

The district council says it is working on a number of initiatives to improve air quality in Henley, including the installation of electric vehicle charging points, parking permit incentives for green vehicles, a feasibility study for a freight consolidation centre and freight quality partnerships and taxi licensing incentives on green vehicles.

Other steps include improved use and enforcement of traffic regulation orders, a review of the council and contractors fleet, eco driver training, air quality planning guidance, awareness, behavioural change and community projects, a “park and stride” campaign and another encouraging drivers to cut their engines while waiting at traffic lights.

The council is also proposing new planning and procurement policies to deliver a long-term vision of reducing emissions from transport, an electric vehicle uptake target of two per cent by 2020 and a low emission behaviour change campaign.

Meanwhile, a Henley  environmental campaigner has accused town councillors of “pathetic inaction” in tackling the town’s air quality problem.

David Dickie, a member of Henley in Transition, said Cllr Gawrysiak’s measurements confirmed those he had been taking of particulate levels.

On occasions the levels were more than five times over the limit, which he called “horrendous”. Speaking at a town council meeting, Mr Dickie, of St Katherine’s Road, Henley, said: “The district council still maintain they don’t know what to do about it. ‘Has Henley any ideas?’ they ask.

“A positive longlist has been recommended in the transport study but there is only one solution and you all know it — reduce the impact of diesel. This is the message from all clean air groups worldwide, so when can we get going?

“The district council’s budget is negligible and the outcome may only be more reports saying we are doing nothing. Does anyone know the status of the promised electric car charge points? Will they ever arrive?”

Mr Dickie reminded the ruling Conservative councillors of their manifesto pledge on air pollution to carry out a traffic study.

He added: “Given the likelihood of the neighbourhood plan resulting in many more residences, although few affordable, and vehicles than expected, this is a momentous challenge.”

The town council’s transport strategy group is drawing up its own list of measures to tackle air pollution.

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