Calderdale Council is one of the local authorities nationally which exceeds pollution levels but what is being done to tackle the issue?
The council’s Strategy and Performance Scrunity Board heard that although air quality is good for most of Calderdale its road network is operating close to capacity with pollution from road vehicles responsible for air quality objectives, set nationally, not being met in eight areas of the borough where Air Quality Management Areas have had to be set up, on the A629 at Halifax, the A58 at Sowerby Bridge, the A646 at both Hebden Bridge and Luddenden Foot, the A58 at Stump Cross near Halifax, Brighouse centre, the A58 at Hipperholme and, most recently added to the list, the A58 at New Bank in Halifax.
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Councillors commented on the report, which says air pollution is well recognised as a contributing factor in onset of heart disease, strokes and cancer with 120 premature deaths per year in the borough attributable to poor air quality.
It was revealed that Calderdale Council is one of 33 local authorities nationally which exceeds pollution levels but is also among the first to take action.
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Officers have already been instructed to draw up an Air Quality Action Plan and board members were invited to ask questions of them and make comments.
The plan is necessary because air quality function is distributed between council directorates and services and there is a recognised need to draw the various aspects and responsibilities together.
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Councillors agreed the statistics around illness and estimated prematire deaths were shocking and asked what they could do to help, and officers said their input and support for a new cross-directorate approach would be important.
They heard there had been some missed opportunities, for example some of the council’s fleet being replaced by more diesel vehicles, but they also considered areas including electric vehicles, accessing West Yorkshire’s Clean Bus Technology Fund, working with businesses and the community towards solutions and keeping a close eye on data from the AQMAs.
They expressed concerns, shared by officers, about the air quality outside Burnley Road Academy at Mytholmroyd while roadworks related to flood alleviation projects were carried out in the long term but were told that as far as the M62 motorway was concerned there did not appear to be correlation between that and the air pollution measures at Huddersfield Road, Halifax, and Sowerby Bridge.
A draft report will be submitted to the board before its submission to Cabinet who in turn have been asked to play their part in ensuring its recommendations work.
Board members also discussed the Government’s Clean Air Strategy Consultation, pointing out that among other things “joined-up thinking” was needed to improve connectivity by rail and other public transport to replace car journeys and get some traffic off the roads.