Air Quality Monitoring (Agenda item 11b)
Report of the Assistant Director for Commissioning
The Council had a statutory duty to meet National Air Quality objectives. Changes to Planning Policy 23 (Planning and Pollution Control) would require local authorities to put in place local arrangements relating to planning pollution control measures.
The Cabinet was being asked to adopt the document as technical guidance and the guidance be issued to Breckland Council Planners, Developers and Agents.
An Air Quality Monitoring system had already been put in place on the London Road in Swaffham. The town had proposals for increased housing and a large retail development which could exacerbate the problem. These air quality exceedences could equally occur across other parts of the district where increased development would lead to increased traffic movements and pollution levels.
The Executive Member for Internal Services advised that air flows in Breckland could be affected by the London conurbation but he accepted the recommendations.
In response to questions, the Scientific Officer for Breckland Council advised that there was no legal or statutory requirement for Air Quality Strategies but authorities were being encouraged by DEFRA to have one. With regard to any implications on the developers, the document itself had been aimed to help them in terms of what was required. Dialogue would be established with developers at an earlier stage.
The Chairman asked if there would be any impact on air quality from other aspects such as traffic lights etc. Members were informed that the County Council had advised that simple rephrasing of traffic light systems would cost in the region of £10k.
The Executive Support Member for Assets & Strategic Development knew of the problem in Swaffham and knew that the nitrogen dioxide exceeded DEFRAs figures and had concerns that additional dwellings in the town would add to the problems on the London Road. He was well aware of the monitoring equipment on the London Road and asked if it would be possible to have further equipment placed in other areas of the town as mentioned in the report. He also asked how the results from such equipment were dealt with. The Executive Support Member also mentioned costs and did not think it was fair for the residents of Breckland to pay for the monitoring equipment. He thought it would be a good idea for the developers to be made to contribute towards such equipment particularly on larger sites.
The Executive Member for Performance and Business Development, also a Ward Member for Swaffham, who unfortunately suffered with asthma, asked if the European Commission were behind such monitoring equipment. He was not against monitoring that affected peoples lives but felt there had to be a balance. Development was needed in Swaffham and he did not want to see it restricted over matters such as these.
The report to the Overview & Scrutiny Commission had been triggered by the proposed Air Quality Technical Guidance document. The Chairman of the Commission believed that nothing much could be done about the traffic and wind direction in Swaffham. However, what the report was doing was looking ahead to manage growth in towns where diminishing air quality had not yet occurred. This document would be a handy tool that would assist developers so that that they could put some thought in the way they proposed their developments in future.
The Scientific Officer assured Members that the document had not been designed to stifle development. There were cost neutral measures that could be put in place and a very useful checklist contained within the Air Quality Assessment document. She understood that there had to be a balance – a need for further development and to live in a healthy area.
The Chairman of Planning highlighted the fact that the road in question in Swaffham had a slight incline and was quite a substantial route going north to south. He did wonder whether the incline affected the driving conditions and increased the traffic emissions and agreed that it should be monitored. Members were informed of how the monitoring equipment had to be installed – best practice for diffusion tubes was head height and 2m from the kerb; background levels also had to be considered.
The Executive Member for Performance and Business Development said that he valued air quality and therefore supported the principles of good quality air.
The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development felt that if the cars speeded up the problems in Swaffham would not have occurred. He pointed out that historic towns such as Swaffham had tall buildings and narrow streets that produced a canyon affect unlike modern towns. He suggested that this document should be used as a policy going forward in future. He further suggested that this item be deferred so that the impact this document would have on developers could be found and how much extra work this would cause.
1) To review the issues set out in the report and recommend adoption of the new guidance by Council for use by the Planning department and developers in terms of assessing and controlling pollution affecting air quality from new developments.
2) Do nothing.
To provide Planners, developers and their agents with guidance when considering Air Quality impacts of development in Breckland.
RESOLVED that the Air Quality Monitoring report be deferred for the aforementioned reasons.