Air quality in Bath was under the spotlight yesterday (June 18) as the European Commissioner for the Environment and local politicians visited the Somerset city for a roundtable event to discuss pollution hotspots in the area.
After visiting nearby Bristol the current European Green Capital yesterday morning, Commissioner Karmenu Vella then continued his short tour of the West of England in Bath, meeting with local residents, community groups, businesses and council planners to discuss air quality.
Also in attendance for the visit and roundtable event was Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South West England, Julie Girling, who is the rapporteur for EU air quality policy, which is currently being revised and updated.
Following the event, Mrs Girling said: Bath is a notorious air pollution hotspot, I have been working for some time with local residents and councillors on this issue. Up to 80% of nitrogen dioxide at roadside locations in Bath is from road traffic; this is an unhealthy emission level. I have invited Commissioner Vella here today to hear directly about the issues within the local context to ensure future European air quality planning allows effectively for local challenges.
I am responsible for revising old and leading new air quality legislation through the European Parliament. It is vital for local representatives to have direct contact to the Commission as they will finalise air quality legislation.
It follows debates this week at EU level regarding the regulated pollution limits in the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) Directive, with Commissioner Vella on Monday (June 15) urging Member States against removing methane from regulations and having only indicative pollution targets (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Speaking in Bath yesterday, Commissioner Vella said: Air pollution leads to annual health costs of roughly 15 billion to UK citizens and roughly 16 billion to the UK economy. Across Europe, 400,000 people die each year because of poor air quality. This is an issue which requires action and today I was delighted to visit Bath, meet with local representatives and listen to local ideas and solutions.
The air we breathe is of vital importance and meetings like this should never be underestimated. The meeting generated lots of discussion and there are a number of issues that I will take back to my team in the Commission for further consideration.
Local air quality campaigner and chairman of the Circus Area Residents Association, Sally Rothwell, said the meeting provided an excellent opportunity for the local community to have their voices heard at the highest level, adding that they were extremely worthwhile.
Newly-elected Conservative MP for Bath, Ben Howlett, was also in attendance at the meeting, commenting that air pollution in the city was well above EU recommended levels and is of huge concern for residents.
Mr Howlett said: I would like to thank Julie Girling MEP for facilitating this meeting, we have worked closely together on this issue both on a National and European level and it’s important we keep up the pressure to help obtain funds to get solutions implemented quickly.