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NO2 levels could lead to AQMA in Newcastle-under-Lyme

A council report based on 2011 data has found national limit breaches for nitrogen dioxide in several areas in the borough, which could lead to its first Air Quality Management Area

Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council could be forced to declare its first Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) after several monitoring sites recorded breaches of national objectives for nitrogen dioxide in 2011.

At a briefing on Thursday (March 28), the council confirmed that a recently-published air quality report based on 2011 monitoring data, ‘2012 Air Quality Updating and Screening Assessment for Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council’, showed there were exceedances of the national limits for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter PM10 in four locations in the Staffordshire borough.

Newcastle-under-Lyme borough councillor Ann Beach

Newcastle-under-Lyme borough councillor Ann Beach, cabinet member for environment and planning

The national annual mean objective for both nitrogen dioxide and PM10 is 40 micrograms per cubic metre, but this was breached in Madeley (M6 motorway), Kidsgrove (A50, Liverpool Road) and in Newcastle Town Centre on London Road and King Street.

A further five locations have been identified by the council as areas close to breaching national limits and are in danger of breaching limits in future years. However, there were no locations that breached the national short term nitrogen dioxide objective and there are currently no designated AQMA’s within the borough.

The council believes that the exceedances are due to road traffic emissions, local geography as well as atmospheric and weather conditions.

The report states that: ‘Other sources of pollution such as transport (other than road traffic in key locations), industrial installations, commercial/domestic, fugitive emissions, residential and commercial appear not to be having a significant impact on emissions of nitrogen dioxide or PM10.’

Further assessment

As a result of the annual exceedances, the council is undertaking a detailed and further assessment of the air quality in the four locations identified, with the findings due in mid 2013. According to the council, this will “detail the sources responsible for the exceedances and identify the minimum extent of any required Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs)”.

The further assessment will use computer-based modelling and take into account vehicle speeds, traffic composition, vehicle queue lengths, building heights, geography and weather data.

The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) will then need to approve the findings of the assessment before the council can consult with residents on the boundaries of any required AQMAs.

Newcastle-under-Lyme councillor Ann Beech, cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “Nationally, air pollution is estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7-8 months with estimated equivalent health costs of up to £20 billion each year. Local authorities therefore have an important role in bringing about improvements in air quality and ensuring compliance with statutory requirements to reduce the impact on health and associated costs to the National Health Service and the wider economy.”

She added: “Once DEFRA has approved the findings of the Detailed and Further Assessment reports, the council will be required to consult on the boundaries of the required air quality management areas.”

More information on air quality in Newcastle-under-Lyme is available on the borough council website.

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