- Posted by: Valerie Vaz MP
- Category: News
Three reports on air quality have highlighted the Government’s failings and inaction on air quality. A report by The Environmental Audit Select Committee European found that the West Midlands is in breach of legal air pollution limits, and the Minister for DEFRA has written to Walsall MBC about Walsall’s poor air quality.
I am alarmed that there have been three recent reports on poor air quality in the UK. The Government have not listened to these warnings and have not taken decisive action.
The Environmental Audit Select Committee report named 38 out of 43 areas across the UK that are in breach of legal air pollution limits, including the West Midlands. Public Health England revealed that 155 people are dying from air pollution each year in Walsall.
The Government have written to Walsall MBC to say that Walsall has one or more Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), an area where national objectives on air quality are not being met. Walsall ‘is in a group which Defra’s 2015 analysis identifies as having current nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exceedances, and as possibly still having NO2 levels over 35 μg/m3 on some road links in 2020’.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also published a draft for consultation ‘Air pollution: outdoor air quality and health’ in December 2016. NICE recommends that Councils redesign speed bumps and ‘consider 20-mph zones in residential areas characterised by stop-go traffic where this will reduce accelerations and decelerations’. This would be particularly effective on Walstead Road where the large speed bumps do not work as vehicles accelerate after crossing the bumps and create a lot of noise pollution for residents.
In November 2016, the High Court ruled that the Government’s current air pollution plans do not meet legal requirements. This ruling occurred in the same month that The European Environment Agency’s report which said that the UK has the second-highest number of deaths from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in Europe, second only to Italy.
In April 2016, when I was a member of The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee, we published a report on ‘Air Quality’ which recognised UK air quality as a ‘public health emergency’ and called for urgent action to be taken to stop up to 50,000 people a year dying from air pollution-related illnesses.
The Government has announced that they will consult on a revised air quality plan by 24 April 2017 and issue a final plan by the end of July 2017 but urgent action is needed. The EFRA Select Committee Report called for joined up Government action and for The Cabinet Office to ‘establish clearly with all Government Departments their duty to consider air quality in developing policies’.
Walsall MBC should consider the recommendation of the NICE guidelines of 20 mph zones in residential areas, which would reduce the need for speed bumps that appear to be a cause of air pollution.