A draft Air Quality Action Plan for Hitchin, Stevenage, includes proposals for parking charges, road layout changes and public awareness-raising initiatives
North Hertfordshire district council is to consult on a draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) for Hitchin, after an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) was declared for the area last year.
The draft AQAP was approved for public consultation at a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday (March 26). The council said that prospective dates for the 12-week consultation would be between May and July 2013, with a report on the consultation expected in September 2013, although this has yet to be fully confirmed.
According to the AQAP, the council is proposing to provide parking charge incentives for low or zero emission vehicles; investigate alternative routes to Hitchinâ€™s industrial areas for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs); and to review parking provision and layout changes along Stevenage Road.
Furthermore, the plan sets out the councilâ€™s intention to investigate the establishment of gas or biomethane refuelling infrastructure at large commercial developments or facilities.
The AQAP also sets out proposals to increase engagement with local businesses using the road network, promote cycling and walking as an alternative to car journeys and to raise awareness of air quality issues among residents – including through the Defra-funded Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire School Travel Plan Project.
Monitoring in Hitchin by the council at the east of the Three Moorhens PH roundabout along Stevenage Road (A602) found annual mean levels of nitrogen dioxide to reach 41.8 micrograms per cubic metre. This level breaches the UK annual mean nitrogen dioxide objective for nitrogen dioxide, which is 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
As a result, a zone in Stevenage Road was designated as an Air Quality Management Area by the council on June 19 2012.
The required reduction in nitrogen dioxide is estimated to be achievable by reducing traffic concentrations of the pollutant by 8.93 micrograms per cubic metre â€“ or a 16% reduction in the road traffic contribution to nitrogen dioxide levels.
According to the council, the major cause of high nitrogen dioxide levels in the area is road traffic, and the A602 is the most direct route between Stevenage and Luton, both of which are located outside of North Hertfordshire.
Council traffic count data shows that on a single day (September 20) in 2012, 15,216 cars passed along Hitchin Hill roundabout, contributing to 44% of nitrogen dioxide emissions. However, the biggest source of pollution appears to be HGVs, of which 588 were counted on the same day and are estimated to be responsible for 31% of nitrogen dioxide emissions.
It states: â€˜It is apparent that a substantial reduction in nitrogen oxide concentrations is required and logically the most effective means of reducing the levels of emissions would be to target the most significant sources of emissions. At Stevenage Road this has been shown to be HGVs and cars and so particular attention will be given to these sources in identifying possible mitigation measures in the Action Plan.â€™
The draft AQAP is available on the North Hertfordshire district council website along with more information on air quality in the district. Comments will be invited via an online survey for the consultation.