York council votes to extend air quality zones

York city council has approved plans to create an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) to monitor air quality around the Leeman Road area of the city.

York, where the local authority is extending an existing air quality management area

Councillors voted in favour of introducing the measure at a cabinet meeting last night (April 12). The new zone will be the third in the city, and will join up with an existing AQMA set up around the city centre, which has been in place since 2002.

AQMAs were introduced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in December 1997 and require local authorities to regularly measure air pollution levels. If an area is found to be likely to fall foul of national air quality objectives councils have a statutory duty to declare the site as an AQMA, and then take steps to improve air quality.

A study of the Leeman Road area found that 52 households were being exposed to concentrations of nitrogen dioxide above the level recommended by government, and long term exposure could lead to health concerns.

Vehicle traffic is thought to be the main source of air pollution in the area.

NITROGEN DIOXIDE

The council will now monitor levels of nitrogen dioxide around Leeman Road, and the adjoining streets of Water End and Salisbury Terrace to ensure that any changes in air quality are detected and reported. It will also have 12-18 months to develop an Air Quality Action Plan to improve air quality in the area.

The city council is also due to launch a public consultation into its draft Low Emission Strategy which is set to be completed by the end of May, with the final version set to be approved in September.

Councillor Dave Merrett, the city council’s cabinet member for city strategy, said: “Based on national estimates up to around 158 people die prematurely in York each year due to the impacts of poor air quality. This is more than the estimated combined impact of obesity and road accidents together, showing the seriousness of this issue.

“Poor air quality puts people’s health at risk, creates an unpleasant environment for visitors to the city, may damage historic buildings and places an additional financial burden on local health service providers. It’s crucial that we step up our efforts to address this issue.”

 Related links

York city council air quality unit

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