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Towcester to receive 100k air quality investment

More than £100,000 funding has been given to South Northamptonshire council to tackle nitrogen dioxide emissions in Towcester

South Northamptonshire council has successfully bid for more than £100,000 in government funding to help improve air quality in parts of Towcester.

The money has been awarded to the council by the Highways Agency and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the council announced on Friday (February 8).

South Northamptonshire council map showing Towcester's AQMA marked in grey

South Northamptonshire council map showing Towcester’s AQMA marked in grey

The funding will be used to redevelop the market square in Towcester to improve the flow of traffic through the town centre and reduce traffic congestion.

Working in partnership with the Highways Agency and Northamptonshire county council, the parking areas in the market square will be redesigned to minimise the disruption to traffic flows and make parking easier.

The Highways Agency is responsible for the market square in Towcester as it is part of the A5 trunk road and it also leads on the design of work to improve air quality caused by congestion in this area.

An area along Watling Street in the town was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) by the council in 2005, with nitrogen dioxide levels, thought largely to be the result of road traffic, monitored above the permitted level.

Nitrogen dioxide

According to the council, although it is required to regularly assess whether it is meeting objectives for seven pollutants, only nitrogen dioxide is an issue in South Northamptonshire.

The council began monitoring nitrogen dioxide using diffusion tubes at various locations across the district in 1997 at roadside and kerbside sites or in areas of potential development. It now monitors the pollutant at 32 locations where there may be a problem with either congestion or traffic volume.

Exceedences of national objectives for the pollutant in Towcester are attributed to slow moving traffic on the A5 coupled with poor dispersion due to the narrow road and high buildings on the road.

The council says that traffic statistics show there has also been an increase in the percentage of Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) on the trunk roads as well as an increase in traffic overall.

Councillor for environmental services, Dermot Bambridge, said: “The health of residents is of vital importance. We are delighted to have been successful in our bid as it will lead to a considerable improvement of air quality in the town centre, and combined with the work being carried out at the junction with the A5/A43, traffic flow should improve significantly.”

Jonathan Price, asset manager for the Highways Agency, said: “The Highways Agency is pleased to be working with SNC and Northamptonshire County Council to develop a scheme to improve the air quality along the A5 through Towcester. Once complete, the scheme will help reduce the pollutants in the town centre, improving air quality for those that live and work in the area.”

As part of the plans, the council will be meeting with Towcester town council and representatives from local businesses to explain the proposals and discuss proposed Traffic Regulation Orders. Details of the scheme will be announced following these discussions, according to the council.

A Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), governed by the Traffic Regulation Act 1984, allows the Highway Authority (Northamptonshire county council) to regulate the speed, movement and parking of vehicles.

An Air Quality Action Plan for Towcester town centre was finalised by the council in October 2008 and is available on the South Northamptonshire council website.

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