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Waverley council withdraws 2016 air quality report

Waverley borough council has withdrawn its 2016 air quality data report after concerns were raised over the accuracy of some of the data in the report.

The report, which was initially published in May and covers 2015, suggested that air quality had improved across the borough, although some areas, in particular in the town of Farnham, had ‘slightly’ exceeded annual mean levels for nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Farnham is one of the towns detailed within the 2016 report

However, concerns were raised by David Harvey, an air quality consultant who lives and works in the local area that adjustments made to the data to account for potential interference in the readings had not been applied correctly.

Mr Harvey argued that ‘bias adjustment factors’, which can be used by local authorities to adjust data where interference may be skewing data readings, had underestimated air quality levels in the borough.

In response to the concerns, the council had commissioned an independent review to assess the report, which had been submitted to Defra.

Review

Following the conclusion of the review, findings of which are expected to be published in the autumn weeks, the council has withdrawn its report. A revised version has since been submitted to Defra for review, with findings expected to be made public this summer.

In a statement, the council said: “Waverley borough council recognises that air quality has a significant effect on public health and that it is vital accurate information is gathered and published to ensure the necessary action is taken to reduce pollution levels.

“The council is committed to protecting and enhancing the borough’s environment; it has set up an air quality steering group bringing together local authorities, including Surrey county council, and other agencies to  find solutions to reduce the level of air pollution – in particular in the designated air quality management areas in Farnham and Godalming.

“We take the borough’s air quality very seriously and we are currently working with Defra to review the 2016 report, following complaints of inaccuracy to both the council and Defra. At this stage Defra has not confirmed to the council whether or not the data is flawed.”

Accuracy

The council added: “However, in order to be absolutely certain the report is accurate, the council has sent it to independent auditors to be checked. If the results show the data is incorrect the council will immediately rectify the mistake, republish the report, review if any new actions need to be taken and put in place measures to help ensure inaccuracies do not happen in future.

“We want to resolve any issues with the report as soon as possible so we can focus on moving forward and finding solutions to the air quality issues in the borough.”

A Defra spokesperson, said: “We are aware of this issue and understand the local authority is now investigating the issue.”

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