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Northampton’s air quality strategy boosted by 20 new monitors

West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) have installed a new network of of air quality monitors at key locations around the town, as part of a plan to improve sustainability and air quality.

Until recently, there was just a single continuous air quality monitoring station in or near Northampton. Part of the government’s Automatic Urban Monitoring Network, the reference station has monitored ozone, NOx and fine particulates since 2017. Now, Northampton is benefiting from an additional 20 small air quality monitors, manufactured by Airly.

These are indicative monitors which don’t offer the high levels of accuracy and precision provided by reference monitors but which are no less useful for that. Indicative monitors are being deployed around the world because they cost substantially less, and are generally small and simple to deploy in the areas of the greatest concern.

WNC leader Cllr Jonathan Nunn (as seen in the above video) said: ‘Urban air quality is the subject of considerable public concern, and it is vitally important that we are able to make informed decisions. We know that one of the most important factors affecting air quality is vehicular traffic, so it is vital that we know where the pollution hot-spots are, and that we understand the factors affecting them. The monitoring network will therefore provide us with an air quality baseline and a means with which to measure the success of mitigation measures.

‘In the past we had to rely on models that estimated air quality, but with the new sensors positioned in the locations that matter most, we will be able to calibrate those models and better understand the quality of air that local people are breathing.

‘We are also delighted to be able to provide local citizens with easy access to transparent air quality data; accessible via the Airly air quality App. This data will help vulnerable people such as those with Asthma or COPD to manage their levels of exposure. It will also make the invisible visible; identifying pollution hot-spots and helping drivers for example, to understand the impact of idling during drop-off and pick-up times at schools.’

WNC’s expanding air quality monitoring network also forms an important component of the Council’s long-term sustainability strategy to achieve Net Zero for its own emissions by 2030 and Net Zero for West Northants’ emissions by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK Government’s 2050 target. WNC has signed the UK100 Net Zero pledge, which focuses on tackling the climate emergency and reducing carbon emissions.

Jonathan Nunn. again: ‘Air quality is closely related to greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from vehicles represent a significant proportion of our carbon footprint, so if we can use air quality measurements to improve traffic management, we will lower carbon emissions and improve air quality at the same time.

‘The new monitoring network will ensure that our air quality strategy is data-driven, but I must emphasise that this initiative is just one example of the ways in which we are developing Northampton; using smart technologies, to create one of the country’s leading smart towns.’

 

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