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Council Acts to Address Air Quality Concerns

Published on: 30 Mar, 2017
Updated on: 2 Apr, 2017

Improving air quality in the borough will be the focus of a new working group, set up following recommendations made to the Executive of Guildford Borough Council (GBC) by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Air quality and pollution levels are a key concern both locally and nationally and traffic emissions are monitored regularly at a number of locations around the borough.

In Guildford the two principal air pollutants are particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) both from traffic emissions.

Cllr Caroline Reeves, chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee said: “Nationally, air pollution is the second-biggest public health threat after smoking. I am pleased that the in-depth work of the committee will now be taken forward to shape our new air quality strategy for the borough, and that scrutiny councillors will continue to contribute to this work.

“This is an excellent example of how scrutiny can help shine a light onto an issue locally and work closely with our Executive to develop new policies as a result.”

Among the recommendations of the group were:

  • more air pollution monitoring locations
  • investigate use of new air monitoring technologies
  • address an upward trend in poor air quality in Bridge Street, Sandfields and York Road in central Guildford
  • investigate nitrogen dioxide levels in Compton

Cllr Paul Spooner, leader of the council said: “We would like to thank the Overview and Scrutiny Committee for the detailed work they have carried out to bring forward these recommendations.

“We are working closely with partners including Surrey County Council on a number of measures which will improve air quality in the borough, including a sustainable movement corridor for the town centre. The next stage is to update our air quality strategy which we will now begin work on.”

It is understood that the strategy will be decided by an Executive group. Work is said to have already been done by council officers on upgrading the measuring at existing locations and some new sites have been added.

Susan Parker, leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, said: “We are grateful that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee set up this working party, chaired by GGG councillor, David Reeve, following a prospectus he initiated and drafted.

“The committee produced a very well-received detailed report which categorised the seriousness of the problems in our borough. This is a topic of grave international concern which we need to address locally with immediate effect.  While some of the causes are beyond our control, we can work to prevent any worsening of the situation and aim to improve our air quality.

“Certain areas in our borough are already, apparently, in breach of international safety limits and we need to address this. The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had hoped to continue its work but it has been taken on by the Executive instead. It is to be hoped that the Executive recognises the importance of this issue and will ensure that appropriate action is taken soon.”  

Last year (2016) a report produced by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health suggested that every year in the UK, outdoor pollution is linked to around 40,000 deaths.

It was said that air pollution can have a damaging effect from when a baby is in the womb and continue throughout life to older age, playing a role in many chronic conditions such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, and neurological changes linked to dementia.

The expert panel behind the report felt that the concentration limits set by the government and the World Health Organization are not safe for the whole population and leave certain groups vulnerable including poorer people who tend to live in lower-quality environments and are more exposed to air pollution.


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Responses to Council Acts to Address Air Quality Concerns

  1. Dennis Harvey-Hepherd Reply

    March 30, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    How about all taxis, buses, ESVs, vans and lorries entering borough to have zero or low emissions by 2020 or date to be agreed ASAP?

    It would be very cheap (maybe self financing) to introduce and enforce with the existing Vehicle Number Plate Recognition cameras plus a few extras.

    I understand similar schemes already exist in other areas.

  2. Paul Bishop Reply

    March 30, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    You don’t need a committee and endless papers to understand that areas with heavy traffic congestion will have high PM and NOx emissions; it’s the simple chemistry of the combustion engine. Therefore, deal with congestion and pollution will decrease.

    It is not an easy issue of course, but it is a fundamental problem at the heart of many of the borough’s issues. In fact, a fundamental issue for the entire South East. There’s no magic wand to solve this and I struggle to see what this committee will be able to achieve other than keep the green fanatics happy. This is an issue far bigger than Guildford.

  3. Chris Ogle Reply

    March 30, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I have to say that the recommendations are very limp.

    More monitoring? What good is that? We need to get cars off the road. Simple as that – not encourage more cars with more car parks.

  4. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 30, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    So the Executive has ‘acted’.

    Yes, they’ve acted to take the research over from the highly competent scrutiny committee, so they can kick it into the long grass, on a good day to bury bad news (Brexit).

    This in case it causes embarrassment to their plans to build so many housing estates and increase the cars in the borough, and consequent pollution by 30%. Aren’t they marvellous?

    • Chris Ogle Reply

      March 31, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      I completely agree. There is no ‘action’ here at all and I can only imagine that the article headline is ironic.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    March 31, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Simple ways to improve air quality:

    1. Get the traffic moving by removing blocks to traffic – e.g. poorly timed pedestrian crossings at Burpham) and little used bus lanes in central Guildford.
    2. Controversially install minimum speed limit for cars on A3 such that no car drives below 45 mph between the university and Hog’s Back south bound (it is the only way to get a high volume of cars through this section of road).
    3. Widen the A3 to four lanes by installing a tunnel between Gosden Hill and Compton (three lanes will not solve the problem of congestion or air pollution).
    4. Install a four way at the A320/ A3 intersection to remove traffic from Ladymead.
    5. Change the entrance to Millbrook car park on A281 such that it aligns with Quarry Street to allow traffic to exit right removing the need to enter the gyratory.
    6. Make all buses visit the railway station so that there is no need to drive there.
    7. Drop the “modal shift” proposal as it is a failed option before it starts, as was the bus lane experiment (see Liverpool’s answer to bus lanes last year).

    If someone would like to do the calculation I would estimate a drop in pollution levels of some 30% on current levels with these actions.

  6. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 31, 2017 at 10:54 am

    A congestion charge would help to deter unnecessary traffic entering our heavily congested town centre, and in doing so help to improve our air quality.

    • Paul Bishop Reply

      March 31, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      It will just send traffic around the town. People will still need to get across Guildford, simply introducing charges without solving the fundamental issue only moves the problem.

      It might fix pollution in Guildford town centre, but somewhere else will get the extra traffic. It’s a bigger issue than just the town.

  7. David Potter Reply

    April 2, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    I hope they monitor the air quality at Garlicks Arch Copse before they decide to allow 400 houses on the site. This site sits in a dip right next to the A3 where the traffic builds up every day as it rumbles towards the A3/M25 intersection and I’m sure is the most noxious of sites chosen as part of the Local Plan.

    I hope, before they allow houses on this site, they have consider the relevant data.

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