Air quality problems in Calderdale - but political parties can't agree how to deal with it

All three main parties on Calderdale Council agree there are serious concerns about air quality in parts of the borough – but argued ferociously about methods to deal with it.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 8:05 am
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 9:10 am

In the end, an amendment from the ruling Labour group, which outlined practical steps being taken to improve air quality across the borough and pledging the council to work with West Yorkshire’s new Metro Mayor Tracy Brabin to lobby national Government for extra resources to tackle air quality and the climate emergency, was passed.

An original Conservative group motion proposed by Coun Jacob Cook (Con, Greetland and Stainland) called for more action at the council’s level, particularly increasing the number of areas in Calderdale he believed should be subject to Air Quality Management Area status and reconsidering the impact housebuilding resulting from the council’s new Local Plan would have on air quality.

Coun Cook said: “I can’t emphasise how important the Local Plan is going to be on air quality across the borough for the next decade.”

Air quality issues were debated by councillors

Using his West Vale ward as an example, in 2020 its air quality metric was 38, just two under the legal limit of 40, but this was an average and in one month in 2019 figures showed it was 61, nearly one and a half times the legal limit, exposing children in the village to dangerous levels daily.

The council had the power to declare areas that were at risk of exceeding the legal limit, said Coun Cook.

While supporting moves to improve air quality, a defeated Liberal Democrat amendment was also highly critical of the Conservative Government’s proposals the change the way the planning application process is undertaken nationally.

“The future white paper will ride roughshod over local authorities to even have a Local Plan,” said Liberal Democrat group leader Coun James Baker (Warley), who added that if Calderdale’s Conservatives were passionate about the issue they should vote for the Liberal Democrat amendment.

An angry Conservative group leader Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn) said he could not believe what he had just heard. “We weren’t interested in national politics, it’s pathetic they have raised this in terms of what the Conservative Government is doing,” he said.

Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) highlighted nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah being the first to have air pollution named as a cause on her death certificate and said the council did not manage its AQMAs.

“You’ll spend more time talking about air quality tonight than we spend time managing it,” he said.

Cabinet member for Climate Change and Resilience, Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said councillors had more in common over air quality concerns that what divided them.

Issues raised by Coun Cook included permission for an incinerator at Sowerby Bridge but this had been refused by the coluncil and allowed on appeal by the Secretary of State with the environmental permit approved by the council subject to a judicial review applied for by a resident, said Coun Patient.

Local Plan issues would be assessed in detail, the council has declared a climate emergency and taken a lead, he said, his motion listing a range of projects including creating vehicle free “school streets”, replacing diesel vehicles in its own fleet with electric ones and working on encouraging people to use public transport rather than their cars, and to walk and cycle more.

AQMAs were constantly reviewed and he would be happy to work with Conservative councillors over issues.

More help from the Government was needed, said Coun Patient.