Will the Marlborough Area Board get its act together on vital air quality monitoring and controls?
Transition Marlborough are to call a public meeting to press Wiltshire Council to install a long-promised air quality monitor, to read those monitors they have installed and to get some action from the Area Board.
The detiorating traffic congestion in Marlborough is not just a matter of inconvenience and economic waste, for many people it can be a matter that affects their health.
Air pollution can be a major environmental risk to health. Some airborne pollutants affect the heart and lungs - causing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Others are carcinogenic - that is they have the potential to cause cancers.
Data shows that in parts of the town, air quality is poor with emissions of nitrogen dioxide above the safe limit. Besides the traffic coming through the town - notably large trucks - the fact that much of Marlborough is low lying and has narrow streets does not help in the dispersal of pollutants.
Rich Pitts and Dr Sam Page's presentation to the Marlborough Area Board (November 24) was suitably to the point:
"The area unitary councillors and town councillors have been woefully inactive on the issue of air quality and driving an improvements in local air. All area boards were tasked with convening a community air quality action planning group."
"Marlborough was the only board not to do this. Other areas in Wiltshire are already having their action plans reviewed by the Department of the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)."
"A monitor to check the quality of the air in real time near St. Peter's School was agreed 18 months ago. But it's yet to be installed." This should be an automatic monitor that includes readings on 'particulates' - the microscopic particles that are produced by a car exhausts.
Transition Marlborough believes that this monitor will be "...vital to establish a base line on the true state of affairs regarding air quality in the town. And to provide real time updates to local people at risk from air pollution - for example those with asthma."
To get things moving Transition Marlborough have agreed to convene a public meeting in the New Year to help formulate a plan for the area board. The aim being to provide input to the area board and to Marlborough's neighbourhood plan so work can begin to improve air quality.
It is not clear why the Marlborough Area Board has been allowed to be so inactive in this matter. Wiltshire's Air Quality Action Plan submitted to DEFRA in July 2015, states:
All Area Boards with an [Air Quality Management Area] will provide annual progress reports on 31st January of each year of progress made against the community air quality action plans and priority actions. The Area Boards are as follows: Bradford On Avon Area Board, Calne Area Board, Devizes Area Board, Marlborough Area Board, Salisbury Area Board & Westbury Area Board.
Further details can be found on the special Wiltshire Council website.
The safe limit for nitrogen dioxide is an annual average of 40 microgrammes (µg) per cubic metre. The data already available shows that parts of Marlborough were, even in 2014, over that safe limit.
It is not clear why the nitrogen dioxide monitor at the Lloyds Bank bus stop has not been read. This site is especially important as buses often run their engines while waiting there and they can cause bursts of exhaust pollutants when they move off.
It is also unclear why Wiltshire Council devolved the responsibility for air quality management to the Area Boards rather than to town councils. All the Air Quality Management Areas are - as one might expect - in towns. The great majority of the Marlborough Community Area is largely unaffected by poor air quality.
Transition Marlborough have identified some of the activities that risk inhaling high levels of NO2 and particulates in Marlborough:
• Spending time at bus stops where diesel engines are running.
• Spending time in out-door cafes near the High Street.
• Cycling in heavy traffic, particularly in Herd Street, Barn Street and London Road.
• Jogging alongside busy roads, particularly Herd Street, Barn Street & London Road.
• Loitering near road junctions and pedestrian crossings with stop-start traffic.