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Midlothian council to revoke AQMA in Pathhead

Switch from coal to gas heating sees air quality improvements in Midlothian, with help of Scottish Government funding

Midlothian council has begun the process of revoking an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in Pathhead, as a result of marked improvements in air quality in the village.

The councils acting director for communities and wellbeing, Eibhlin McHugh, confirmed that the Scottish Government and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had approved the removal of the AQMA at a full council meeting last month.

Air quality problems in the Pathhead area were attributed to the number of residents using coal fires

Air quality problems in the Pathhead area were attributed to the number of residents using coal fires

The AQMA was originally declared in the region in April 2008 as a resulted of a predicted excess of particulate matter.

According to a report presented to the council, improvements in air quality were witnessed when a gas main was fitted supplying homes that had previously been dependant on burning coal as a source of heating.

Midlothian council obtained funding from the Scottish Governments Universal Home Insulation Scheme (UHIS), which was made available to local authorities for delivering emission savings and reducing fuel poverty.

Following the installation of the gas mains, a reduction in particulate matter (PM10) was measured over consecutive annual sampling periods, while levels of sulphur dioxide also saw a significant drop.

Evidence

Commenting on the improvements in air quality at the Pathhead site, the Scottish Governments Air Quality policy manager was quoted in the report as saying: I agree that there is sufficient evidence for the AQMA to be revoked and am content for the process to begin. This will be the first AQMA in Scotland, and one of very few in the UK, to be revoked on the basis of introduced measures.

Councillor Lisa Beattie, representing the Midlothian East ward, said: This report is cause for a great celebration for everyone who lives in the area, and also for this council.

When I first raised the issue of air quality in 2007 the concern was that it was unclear exactly what the source of the pollution was.

At that time, the risk of asthma to children in the area was considerable. There were people who already had cardiovascular respiratory diseases, and this was making it worse. There were families in the area who were having to light fires, regardless of the temperature, just to get hot water.

That was addressed in one fell swoop, and if it hadnt been for the enormous efforts and determination of this councils environmental health team we would not have been able to identify the particulates that were causing this situation.

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