Air Quality in Vale

Three Vale areas suffer regular levels of NO2 levels in excess of EU thresholds: Botley along the A34, Marcham in Packhorse Lane, and the centre of Abingdon. 

Someone asked me today what I thought it meant to Vale that a court found (again) that the UK government isn’t doing enough to improve air quality. 

IMO, part of the problem is in the structure of responsibilities. I think someone in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet needs to have an overall responsibility for this, and to make clear what local government bodies can and should do. I think MPs should be doing more. Obv the courts agree. 🙂

Districts are tasked with monitoring and forming action plans. That’s where we (Lib Dems) have tried to apply pressure to the current administration. Today we have regular air quality measurements in the main problem areas, and under pressure from us, Tory Cabinet recently created action plans for those three areas too. 

But the measurement methods are a bit old fashioned and maybe not as thorough as they could be. And the action plans inevitably involve bodies other than the districts (county, highways, transport legislation etc) and we have not much clout in getting them to fund anything or do anything. 

Within the past year, we tabled a motion for council to write to the Government urging them to tighten up the requirements and testing for diesel engine emissions standards. It was voted down, but many Tories either supported us or abstained. We’ll try something like this again after the 6 months is up.

Just this week we submitted a budget proposal to the Tory administration for modernising our air quality monitoring equipment. We think Vale should be measuring particulates and providing real time information so vulnerable people can decide if they want to risk venturing outdoors on a given day. 

If we can be sure we are usefully measuring the most harmful of our air pollution problems, then when other bodies finally decide to do something, we’ll have the data. 

I don’t think it’s OK that nothing is happening, not at all. But I think that the FACT that nothing is happening points to a systemic problem that the lowest level of government (districts) is not equipped, nor expected, to handle. 
In all of this, I discovered that the most recent public health report on mortality estimates that 52 people in Vale die prematurely every year, due to air pollution. 

So it’s worth doing all we can.