Category Archives: Environment

Question in Council on Air Quality Action Plans

(Updated 1 Jan 18 to  include Cabinet member’s reply  – in green italics)

At the full Vale council meeting on 13 Dec 2017, the Liberal Democrat Cllr Emily Smith asked a question of the Cabinet member for Environmental Protection Elaine Ware. Despite the fact that the question was submitted on time, 10 days before the council meeting, the Cabinet member said she was unable to supply an answer on the night, promising a written response in a few days. We had the reply on 21st Dec 2017. 

Here is the question:

Question from Cllr Emily Smith to Cabinet Member for Environmental Protection, Cllr Elaine Ware:

In the 2015 Air Quality Management Plan the 11 district wide actions were:

1. Creation of a ‘low emission strategy’ and ‘low emission zone’ feasibility study (target date 2017) – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report. This work is dependent on external funding. We are currently compiling a bid for a Defra air quality grant with Ricardo to undertake this work

2. Installation of electric vehicle recharging points – Planning conditions requiring electric charging points are placed on applicable planning applications

3. Parking permit & pricing incentives for green vehicles (target date 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target will
be rescheduled.

4. Feasibility study for freight transport consolidation centre (FCC) / freight quality partnership (target date 2016) – Initial discussions with OCC and other Local Authorities have concluded that this is a long-term action and will be raised when the new Oxfordshire infrastructure proposals are discussed.

5. Taxi licensing incentives for green vehicles (target date 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target with be rescheduled.

6. Improved use and enforcement of traffic regulation orders (target date 2016) – This action will be included in the proposed Low Emission Strategy study

7. Review of the council and contractors fleet – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report and is underway. New waste vehicles with improved emission standards are now operated by Biffa the waste contractor.

8. Eco driver training (trial to be complete by 2016) – Target delayed due to resources. An air quality officer 0.5 post has been recruited and is currently undergoing training. Once this is completed the action plan target will be rescheduled.

9. Air quality planning guidance (target date 2015) – This is referenced in the LPP2 proposals and consultation is taking place with various officers in planning to complete the document (target January 2018)

10. Community involvement projects – Named as a focus of work for 2017-18 in the Annual Status Report. The Vale is involved with Sustrans and local Abingdon groups to investigate a simple project connecting cycle routes in Abingdon and produce a dedicated map promoting cycling in the town. Botley schools – potential project supporting air quality as part of curriculum. Plan to apply for Defra funding for a public outreach project as a joint application with other Oxfordshire Councils in 2018. This would connect with schools, GP and local groups.

11. Introduce south facing slip roads to Lodge Hill interchange – This action has been approved nationally and is being executed by Oxfordshire County Council.

Please can the cabinet member confirm which of these actions are complete and provide an update of those which are not? What evidence do we have that each of these measures has been successful or otherwise?



Question to Tories about Botley Petrol Station

I think the loss of the last local petrol stations is an environmental sustainability issue for Planning Policy.Today we learned that the Esso station in Oxpens Rd is to close 17 August.

I’m trying to get Vale Tories to recognise that loss of local options for fueling our cars forces thousands of drivers to hit the A34 (already a source of pollution and operating above capacity) to drive further afield to find petrol. I think this is a serious environmental issue that deserves Planning Policy consideration. We have ways to save local pubs, after all.

At the July full Vale Council meeting, I asked the Cabinet member for Planning Policy, Cllr Michael Murray, a question about it.

“The loss of the last petrol station in Botley is an environmental concern when it means thousands of extra cars must travel on the already over-capacity A34 to Peartree, Heyford Hill or Abingdon in order to fill the tank. What policy changes could the Vale consider to address this environmental sustainability issue?”

His reply: “We will all be very aware of the great strides forward in technology that the car manufacturing industry has taken in the past few years. In particular they have focussed on increasing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions. This, coupled with competition between suppliers and increased taxation on fuel to encourage reduced consumption, has resulted in greatly reduced margins and market capacity for roadside retailers. As such we have seen a considerable consolidation of the sector. However the improvement in vehicle range on a tank of fuel has very much reduced the need for local fuel provision. Whilst the BP garage at Seacourt Tower remains open for business, there is no certainty that this, or any other fuel, or other retail, or other commercial use for any building in the Vale, will continue to trade in the long term in the face of changing market conditions, and it does not appear immediately obvious why increasingly scarce council resources should be deployed to developing a fuel retailer policy specifically for Botley as a priority over other more pressing Vale wide matters”.

An unhelpful, and rather snarky response, I thought.

I asked my follow-up question regarding ways in which the council could demonstrate the need for a joined up planning policy approach in Botley, Cllr Murray first remonstrated with the chairman  that my question shouldn’t be allowed as it wasn’t really supplementary to the original question. Chairman ruled against him. So Cllr Murray then stated that views were sought during the consultation on the draft local plan. There would be a further opportunity to submit views/ideas during the Botley supplementary planning document consultation process.




My comments for the AQAP consultation

Here’s what I said in my comments in the consulation for the Air Quality Action Plan. Consultation continues through the 15th of August.

See the draft AQAP and comment here: (If you haven’t previously registered on the Consultation portal, you’ll need to do so.)

I could have just referred them to my previous blog posts.

Do you have any comments on the actions proposed?

At the most recent Scrutiny Cttee meeting, it was made very clear that the only area where air pollution currently exceeds the EU threshold is Botley. (There was some confusion and error about Marcham, but that is being handled separately.) Abingdon does not currently have air pollution above the threshold, so no action is required there.
I represent the people of Botley, and I have been asking for this Action Plan for the past year. For that long wait, we are rewarded with only one suggestion about how to improve the air quality where I live: build a higher wall between the A34 and homes nearby. A disappointing effort that couldn’t have taken more than an hour to produce.
For Botley, surely professionals in air quality management would have more suggestions?
There are many, many potential solutions for Abingdon, where the Cabinet member has said no probem currently exists.
I’ve heard some councillors sigh as they shake their heads. ‘It’s very hard.’ Yes, it is. Low hanging fruit has alreeady been plucked, and now the brave work has to begin. in my opinion, it is not an option to do nothing. Excess pollution affects peoples health and lives. In fact, aren’t we legally lliable to take mitigating action? The Vale must seek collaboration from the other stakeholders and find some solutions.

Are there any other actions that we should pursue?

Plant lots of trees. Trees are demonstrably successful at absorbing air pollution between roads and houses.
Ban polluting vehicles from the A34. Have them go round the ring road.
Promote in some creative way low emmmission vehicles.
The report says pollution comes from the A34. It’s not clear how this is known, beyond it being the obvious source. (Certainly the poluuted areas are next to the A34). What about diesel vans on Westminster Way?
Ban HGVs and LDVs on Westminster Way.
Slow down traffic on the A34.
Put a cover over the A34 to contain pollution and treat it before expelling it into the air.
Have a solution contest and give a good prize to the best idea.
Get the view of experts. We aren’t unique here in Botley. Surely there is something that can be done.

Botley’s AQAP

AQAP – Air Quality Action Plan. When pollution is higher than the EU threshold, human health and well-being are negatively affected, and councils are required to create and implement an AQAP. The Vale’s draft plan (which is currently out for consultation) came to Scrutiny on the 24th of July.

There are three areas in the Vale that have in the past, or do now have, NO2 pollution above the threshold: Abingdon, Botley and Marcham. Only Botley is currently showing levels that are too high.

The draft AQAP has only one suggestion for Botley: consider higher walls to protect people from the pollution from the A34.

There was no mention of other ideas such as planting trees to absorb the pollution, banning LDVs or HGVs in Westminster Way, slowing down traffic on A34 (although I’m told by people who should know that the 50mph limit is for noise abatement, not air quality). Please have a read of the report — it’s interesting. One thing I learned is that buses aren’t a problem in Botley but they are in Abingdon. (I don’t know how they can tell that, and the report doesn’t say.)

If you have some additional ideas about how to improve the air quality along both sides of the A34 (that’s where the pollution is over the limits) then please, PLEASE log your comments on the consultation. You can get to the consultation via my previous blog post. In the draft report you can see a map of the problem areas.

Or let me know and I will take your ideas forward.

Amusingly, I was lectured a bit at the meeting by Cllr Eric Batts (who has to either miss his North Hinksey Parish Council meeting or the Scrutiny meeting, as they are scheduled for the same 4th Thursday night). He told committee that he has been involved in trying to improve air quality for years, and that it’s really, really difficult, and he doesn’t see what more they can do.

Well, here’s what I say to that. #Fail! Air pollution levels along the A34 are unacceptable. There there are health effects for residents. The Tories have taken NO action to protect Botley residents. None. Does the EU have to cite the Vale for violations before they will do something?

Intractable air quailty problems mean the Vale Cabinet member for Environmental Health has to work collaboratively with other orgnisations that are more directly responsible for traffic, roads, lorries and vans — all the contributors to our air pollution problems. Low hanging fruit was plucked years ago, and now we require councillors of imagination, intelligence and determination. The Vale has a legal and moral responsibility to do their best for us.


Campaign to protect Oxford Greenbelt

2014 cumnor cricket siteI’ve been helping the local Lib Dems get support in Cumnor, Botley, Sunningwell and South Hinksey for their campaign to get the Vale adminstration to look again at the proposed plans to build piecemeal on the Oxford Green Belt.

Residents have been so supportive, signing on the doorstep when we call, or via our online petition. A big Thank You to everyone who has signed our petition so far.

If you haven’t signed already, please sign the petition to help protect the Green Belt. You can do it online here:

PS. Did you know they plan to build 200 houses in the Green Belt land behind the Cumnor cricket gounds? (Right behind us in the photo above.) Did you know the Vale’s consultants recommend removing the Fogwell Road Pavilion Grounds and the Louie Memorial Pavilion and all the upper playing fields from the Green Belt protection?

I was astonished to learn that. I signed the petition. I’ll let you know when we are going to present it to the Vale. Maybe you’ll want to come along.


Air Quality Action Plan consultation

(Update 24 Jul 14 – this is coming to Scrutiny tonight. We’ve heard today that they were in error in leaving out Marcham from this plan. Will be ‘falling on their swords’, aplogising and submitting an amendment.)

The Vale has launched its public consultation for their Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP).

Comments are welcome through Friday the 15th of August.

From their announcement:

Generally, air quality in the district is very good, but we have areas where, due to traffic issues, air pollution is close to or exceeds the levels set in European and UK regulations. 
When that happens, and we’ve established there’s a risk of the public being significantly exposed to the pollution, we have to create what’s known as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).  We then have to come up with an action plan that sets out how we will work with others who have the power to make the necessary changes to tackle the air quality problems in these areas. 


See the draft AQAP and comment here: (If you haven’t previously registered on the Consultation portal, you’ll need to do so.)

Air Quality Action Plan for Botley

At the full council meeting on Feb 2014, I tabled this motion, (seconded by Cllr Catherine Webber of Marcham):

Council resolves to fulfil its legal responsibility to create Air Quality Action Plans for Botley and for Marcham.

We ran out of time at that meeting, so the motion was carried forward to the next one, on 14 May 14, where I had this to say:

Botley AQMA was created in 2008.

In 2009, the official report said nitrogen oxide levels needed to be reduced by 40%. The plan was to hope that improved emissions control in new vehicles would bring air pollution to acceptable levels by 2014.

In April 2012, the Air Quality Updating & Assessment report concluded an AQMA plan was required. (It was clear at that point that hope as a strategy wasn’t enough.)

In May 2012, I asked, ‘With planned growth comes increased cars, street deterioration and air pollution. Botley is an AQMA. How will the Vale manage the impact of more development on air quality?’ I had no reply.

In July 2013, I asked the Cabinet member for Environmental Health to report on the efficacy of the Action Plan and where the public could see it. There was no plan, but the Cabinet member said he had asked officers to create one for the Oct 2013 Cabinet briefing.

In Sep 2013, I was sent a DEFRA report that said the AQAP for Botley was in draft form and would shortly go for consultation.

In late October 2013, I again asked in full council meeting how the Vale would mitigate against the anticipated air pollution brought about by the major new shopping centre where Elms Parade and West Way now stand. The Cabinet member said he would reply in writing, but I never got anything.

Here it is February May 2014, and I don’t see an Action Plan – nothing on the Vale website, nothing in my inbox.

We’re legally required to create this Air Quality Action Plan. We also have a moral responsibility to the people who live and work in Botley. Please support the motion.

This motion passed, and the Cabinet member for Environmental Health has said he’s trying his best to get it done.

Since then, officers have published an AQAP for South Oxfordshire, and I hear one for the Vale is due soon. It covers all the bad air areas in the Vale, and will be open for consultation as soon as it’s published. Any day now, I’m sure. Really.

Thames Water – flood alleviation works

Thames Water are about to start work on their £7m scheme to alleviate flooding. It will involve the upsizing of the sewer along North Hinksey Lane and an upgrade of sewers on Cumnor Hill and Eynsham Road. The work will be completed in three phases.  First at the junction of Cumnor Hill and Eynsham Road, next section around West Way, and last, starting in January 2012, the building of a storage tank at the south end of North Hinksey Lane and upsizing the existing sewer for 1.7km along the road.

The upgrades are due to be completed in the autumn of 2012.

Drop-in sessions with further information are to be held on Tuesday 4 October between 6.30 and 8.30pm at St Peter & St Paul, Church Hall, West Way, and on Thursday 6 October between 1 and 5pm at Botley WI Hall, North Hinksey Lane.

Botley Air Quality

(This is from the Vale Website)

Part of Botley has been declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) to help address air pollution problems affecting residents.

The AQMA was declared following an assessment of air quality in the area which identified levels of nitrogen dioxide above the Government’s national standards next to a stretch of the A34.

The assessment and a summary of air quality issues in Botley can be downloaded from the right of their website page. Maps showing the area covered by the AQMA and the monitoring locations in Botley can also be downloaded there.

A further assessment of air quality in the Botley area has been carried out to give more information about air quality. A report on this will be available shortly.

Last reviewed: 01 – 06 – 2011