Sandwell council is to develop a model to identify all air quality ‘hot-spot’ locations within the borough, as part of its work to improve air quality in the area.
The proposal has been identified as a priority within the metropolitan borough council’s draft 2018-2023 Air Quality Action Plan, which was launched for consultation last week (9 February).
Sandwell’s new AQAP will replace the local authority’s existing plan, which was adopted in 2009, and included steps to reduce congestion in the borough and to promote walking, cycling and public transport.
The West Midlands borough, which encompasses the towns of West Bromwich, Smethwick and Oldbury, has recorded exceedances of the 40 µgm/3 annual nitrogen dioxide (NO2) mean limit value at six locations, according to the council’s 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report.
According to the council, Sandwell is an area that historically had poor air quality due to industrial emissions. This is less so now due to cleaner technology and the closure of many traditional heavy industrial premises.
However, the main air quality issue now is traffic pollution due to high traffic volume, congestion and many households close to the road network.
Also, the busy motorway network runs through the heart of Sandwell and we are the only West Midland authority which shares all of its boundaries with other urbanised authorities within the conurbation.
The council’s 2018 AQAP targets achievement of the national NO2 annual mean objective across the borough within the ‘shortest possible timeframe’, as well as reductions in PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations in order to protect human health.
Priority actions outlined in the plan include the development of an air pollution model of the borough to ‘ensure all hot spot locations are identified’ alongside those where pollutants are already being monitored.
According to the council: “These locations will be prioritised and source apportionment undertaken where necessary. Transport planning and traffic infrastructure management will be reviewed at each hot-spot location to identify where additional resource is needed and prepare a programme of works for each zone.”
The council also proposes to continue to promote walking, cycling, car sharing and public transport initiatives, continuing existing work from the 2009 plan.
This will come alongside a review of council fleets, licencing activities and employee vehicle-use to “understand and prioritise council-related air quality initiatives”.
The council also wants to work with Transport for West Midlands and bus operators to put cleaner vehicles on the road.
Commenting on the proposals, Sandwell council’s cabinet member for public health and protection Councillor Elaine Costigan, said: “We know that there are places in Sandwell where the air quality could be improved.
“It’s mainly down to traffic levels and congestion, so we’ll be looking at what we can do to ease these issues over the next five years.”
Sandwell MBC – Draft AQAP 2018/2023