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Agenda item

Air Quality Annual Status Report 2019

To receive the Council’s Air Quality Annual Status Report for 2019 and comment accordingly.

Minutes:

The covering report, written jointly by the Council’s Assistant Environmental Health Manager and the Council’s Scientific Offer, enclosed at Appendix A the Council’s Air Quality Annual Status Report for 2019.

 

Members were asked to note the contents of both documents prior to submission of the 2019 Air Quality Report to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in fulfilment of Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 for Local Air Quality Management to:

 

·         Report progress on the implementation of measures in the local air quality action plan and other measures and their impact in reducing concentrations below air quality objectives to;

·         Provide a summary of monitoring/modelling data in order to process the air quality situation in the area and likelihood of air quality breaches.

 

The Chairman proposed that discussion proceed on the basis that all Members had read both the covering report and the substantive 2019 Annual Report at Appendix A.

 

In response to subsequent questions from Members, the Strategic Director (External Services) and the report authors confirmed the following points for the Committee:

 

·         Air pollution in Dartford had increased in 2018 over levels recorded for 2017. It was believed that this was due primarily to adverse weather conditions, in particular an increase in Easterly wind strengths on the western side of the A242, in contrast to the Westerly prevailing winds of previous years;

·         The 2018 increase in air pollution levels in Dartford had not been replicated Kent-wide, and the exact causes (other than changes in wind direction) for an increase was unknown. However, an increase in air pollution in 1 year (2018) should be viewed in the context of previous years: it did not mean that air pollution in Dartford was on an upward trend;

·         Improvements in vehicle technology have resulted in a reduction in emissions from individual vehicles however, due to Dartford’s increasing population associated air quality benefits have not been as rapid as hoped. Ownership of electrical vehicles is increasing, despite only 1% of new vehicle registrations being electrical. It has been predicted that the tipping point for the uptake of electrical vehicles will be 2022 at which point, they will be cheaper to own and the demand for them increase significantly. The price of the Westgate charging points relative to elsewhere was not known;

·         The imposition of 20 m.p.h. speed zones for cars held both benefits and draw-backs. Emissions may be greater from a vehicle travelling at 20 m.p.h. compared to one driven at 30 m.p.h. however, depending on the local traffic conditions, a 20 m.p.h. speed limit could result in smoother flowing less stop-start traffic, which could result in an overall reduction of emissions;

·         The potential parking arrangements for HGVs in the car park of Ebbsfleet International station [post Brexit] for vehicle and customs checks, was imposed by central Government under Statutory Instrument on 6 September 2019. The Council had been consulted and had registered a strong objection to the HMRC and DoT proposed scheme, which would utilise existing ‘hard standing’ at Ebbsfleet station. The Council’s response had included objection to overnight movement and parking of HGVs at Ebbsfleet, and the idling of engines by HGV operatives during any stays or inspection processes;

·          The current Air Quality Action Plans (AQAPs) for Dartford had been produced in 2001 and 2009 and were no longer considered ‘fit for purpose’. Defra now recommended an evidenced based approach in drawing-up AQAPs, based on the identification of pollutants and actions to be taken to combat them. The Council had no ‘in-house’ capability to produce a new AQAP and a consultant had been commissioned to write one for Dartford based on AQA assessments. The Council were committed to producing a new AQAP for Dartford for presentation to Cabinet as soon as possible;

·         The Council was required to publish a new Taxi and Private-Hire Vehicle policy. The age of taxis and private-hire vehicles had been lowered to enable current owners the opportunity to replace their vehicles after the new licensing policy was published, rather than having to do so before the requirements of the new policy were known;

·         The Council was aware of the detrimental effects that M25, A2 and Bluewater traffic had on Dartford, in terms of levels of air pollution, but had limited control over these traffic flows, which fell to Highways England to administer. A new Air Quality Action Plan would give the Council ammunition to go back to central government and other stakeholders, to institute evidence-based measures to combat air pollution in the Borough. Funding for the new Action Plan was ring-fenced in 2020 with a new Plan expected to take 12-18 months to complete.

 

The Chairman thanked Officers for their report and responses to Members questions, welcomed in particular the charts on sources of and monthly levels of pollution, and noted the long-term reductions in air pollution levels in Dartford with the exception of 2018. He hoped that a new Air Quality Action Plan would be completed as soon as possible for use with central government and other stake holders to aid the Council in their efforts to continue to improve air quality in Dartford.

 

                        RESOLVED:

 

1.    That Members note the contents of the report and the 2019 Air Quality Annual Status Report attached as Appendix A to the report;

2.    That Members welcome the Council’s proposals to commission a new Air Quality Action Plan for Dartford to be completed and implemented as soon as possible. 

Supporting documents: