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Halton adopts four-pronged air quality plan

Halton Borough Council, based in Widnes, Cheshire approved yesterday (September 3) a four-pronged response to concerns about air quality in the borough.

This will include a look at ways to reduce NO2 in areas of potential high traffic activity and to develop a multi agency Air Quality Forum.

The actions come after recommendations made in a 36-page report produced by the authority for its Excecutive Board in response to a petition signed by 5,632 local residents in March this year.

A sunny day in Widnes by the Brindley centre; the local authority is setting up a multi agency Air Quality Forum (picture: Halton BC)

A sunny day in Widnes by the Brindley centre; the local authority is setting up a multi agency Air Quality Forum (picture: Halton BC)

The petition expressed concerns about the development of a waste incinerator for use by Viridor in the borough and claimed the council had refused to monitor for “PM2.5 and other toxins”.

In response, the local authority report notes that two air quality management areas have been declared in Widnes town centre where NO2 levels frequently exceed the annual mean objective of 40 μg/m3. And, it states that monitoring of NO2 and PM10 has been undertaken at various points across the borough “which shows levels well below the objective levels”.

Incinerator

In terms of the incinerator, the report notes that pre-monitoring was undertaken in response to the planned development of the new energy from waste facility in Runcorn. “In line with planning conditions, monitoring will be continued once the facility is operational and the results will then be compared with the baseline figures.”

Halton, says the authority, has identified two Air Quality Management Areas, both of them in Widnes, where levels of NO2 exceed the objective levels on more occasions than is permissible as part of the objective standards.

It continues: “The levels of NO2 are higher in these two areas as a result of higher town centre traffic activity. As a result of the declaration of Air Quality Management Areas, these areas are subject to additional measures and Halton Borough Council is working hard to ensure that the levels of NO2 in these areas fall to within permitted levels as soon as possible. These activities include investigating traffic flow alterations and promoting alternative access to the town centre, cycling, walking etc. National and European Air Quality Objectives are determined at levels to protect health. As Halton meets all these criteria (except in designated AQMAs) the air quality cannot be considered to be at levels poor enough to affect health.”

Recommendations

In order to address the issues raised in the petition and the findings of the report and to “ensure that air quality in Halton “=remains good and ultimately to improve health and wellbeing in Halton”, the four recommendations made by officers were accepted by the Executive Board. They are:

i. Undertake a series of public engagement events to build a greater understanding of the concerns local people have regarding air quality in Halton and identify opportunities to build improved relationships to ensure a clear way forward in all concerns.

ii. Develop an active multi agency Air Quality Forum (including lay representation) to enable issues and concerns to be raised and discussed in an open, engaged forum and facilitate agreement on actions and outcomes.

iii. Investigate further opportunities to limit emissions and reduce NO2 in areas of potential high traffic activity around built up areas and achieve compliance with NO2 Air Quality Objectives.

iv. Develop a full Air Quality Strategy, based on available local and national data and evidence to ensure that Halton is able to sustain recent improvements in Air Quality across the  borough and proactively seek to remove the declaration of Air Quality Management Areas within the borough.

Useful Links:
Halton borough council

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