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Agenda item

Air Quality Annual Status Report 2020

To receive the Council’s Air Quality Annual Status report for 2020 and comment accordingly.

Minutes:

The report from the Council’s Scientific Officer (SO) enclosed at Appendix A, the Council’s Air Quality Annual Status Report for 2020.

 

Members were asked to note the contents of both documents prior to submission of the 2020 Air Quality Annual Status Report (Appendix A), 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, a statutory requirement for all local authorities.

 

The covering report from the SO provided Members with a summary of the principal points contained in the 2020 ASR, including details of pollution levels across the Borough and within the four declared Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), plus an update on the progress in developing the Council’s new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) to reduce emissions and pollution within the four designated AQMAs. The SO and the Council’s Assistant Environmental Health Manager (AEHM), were in attendance to respond to Members’ questions.

 

The Chairman commended the 2020 ASR and covering report to the Committee as positive documents which confirmed that vehicle emissions and pollution levels in Dartford for the period under review had fallen. He proposed that debate proceed on the basis that Members had read both documents, and that the SO and the AEHM respond to any questions or concerns that Members might have. In that context, he asked if there were any specific reasons for the positive decrease in emission and pollution levels recorded in the 2020 AQA.

 

The SO advised Members that improvements in vehicle manufacture, and the increasing advent of electrical cars, were the two main contributory factors that had achieved the reduction in emissions and pollution levels in Dartford for the period under review. No specific data was available for the number of electrical vehicles operating in Dartford, but registration of electrical cars had risen sharply in the period under review, albeit from a low starting point.

 

The Chairman sought confirmation that the aim of the annual Air Quality Status exercise was to continuously improve the reduction of emissions and pollution levels in the Borough, not merely to meet Government targets. 

 

The AEHM advised Members that there were no recognised safe levels for emissions and pollution, and that the aim was to drive towards the lowest possible levels for both vehicle emission and overall pollution levels. In response to a follow-up question from the Chairman, concerning the location and instalment of passive diffusion tubes, the SO advised that current sites and any possible relocations/additions of diffusion tubes, would form part of the current update exercise of the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) being undertaken by Bureau Veritas (BV) a specialist external environmental consultant.

 

In response to a variety of further questions and expressions of concern from the Chairman and other Members, the AEHM and SO confirmed the following points:

 

·       Potential ‘pinch-points’ in Dartford’s roads network continued to be assessed as part of the review of the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) including; the A2 Junction and Dartford Crossing, the potential impact of the Ebbsfleet Garden City Development, and the proposed London Resort development in the Swanscombe Peninsular; in terms of increased vehicles and consequent emission levels;

·       Traffic levels at the ‘Blue Star’ Junction for the A2/M25 at both the Brent side of the Fleet estate and Queens Gardens at the West end of the estate, were not currently monitored, given that housing in those areas was set well back from the road and vehicle emissions therefore posed less of a risk to residents;

·       The review of the current AQAPs [produced in 2001 and 2009] and the production of a new AQAP for the Borough, involved multi-staged pieces of work, including complex and detailed computer modelling being undertaken by BV, in the absence of such expertise within the Council;

·       The initial run of computer modelling by BV had indicated that the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) along the A226 at London Road could be potentially be revoked [given the fall in recorded vehicle emission levels]. However, a final decision on revocation of the long-standing AQMA would not be taken until a further run of computer modelling had been undertaken by BV. Those results were expected later in the year, and would be presented to Cabinet for decision on the retention or revocation of the AQMA. Any changes to the existing AQMA arrangements approved by Cabinet, would be subject to consultation with partners, Members and the public, prior to implementation [report para 3.35 refers];

·       The second part of the BV modelling exercise would concentrate on motor vehicle types and models as primary pollutants, and include the consideration of measures to combat emissions dependant on the pollutant source, including implementation of engine stop and re-start measures for queuing traffic as appropriate;

·       The Council were not required to monitor particles smaller than PM10 and had no equipment capable of assessing PM2.5 sized particles. However, the new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) being developed with the aid of Bureau Veritas (BV), would include appropriate measures to reduce PM2.5 particles, as well as other priority pollutants [report para 3.13 refers].

 

The Chairman thanked the Scientific Officer and the Assistant Environmental Health Manager for presenting a very comprehensive and positive 2020 Air Quality Annual Status report to the Committee, and their responses to Members questions and expressions of concern. Given that the 2020 AQA report had included analysis of the higher traffic levels prevailing prior to COVID-19 lock-down measures being imposed, he expressed the cautious hope that the 2021 AQA report would continue the positive trend, and record a further reduction in  vehicle emission and pollution levels for the Borough.

 

He asked that the views of the POC (as recorded in the meeting minutes), be noted by Officers in their formulation of the Council’s new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) with Bureau Veritas, prior to the submission of final recommendations to Cabinet.

 

               RESOLVED:

 

1.     That Members note the contents of the covering report, together with the 2020 Annual Status Report [attached at Appendix A to the report];

 

2.     That the views and concerns of the POC [as minuted above] be included in Officer’s formulation of the Council’s new Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), prior to final submission to Cabinet.

Supporting documents: