Sunday, 23 April 2017

Frodsham's Air Quality

All of us want clean air.   Whilst politicians at a national level are, at long last, giving the issue greater prominence here in Frodsham I've been working on the issue for 10 years.  And after this hard work we can expect an Air Quality Management Plan for Frodsham to emerge from CWaC in May.

My first blush with the issue came with the planning application for the Ince incinerators in 2007 - and my interest in our local health data and our anecdotal tales of poor respiratory health.   I discussed this, at the time with our local GPs.  This led me to ask questions about what data we had locally about air quality.  At the time the data we had was 'high level' type data - not data about air quality in particular parts of Frodsham.

My first concerns were to understand what risks industry posed to us and whether traffic pollution was an issue.  This inevitably led to me asking questions about the potential risks to was to health being posed to those living close to the Motorway.  One of my earliest decisions I took, when I first had member's grant monies to spend, was to have air quality monitors for the residents of the park homes off Marsh Lane.

Over the years Lynn and I spent more money on monitors at various locations in Frodsham - culminating in the comprehensive air monitoring equipment that is currently sitting in Manor House Primary School car park.  We made sure that equipment went live ahead of Ineos commissioning their massive waste incinerator.  Our work also led to an independent air quality expert - Professor Leyton - producing a report drawing from all available air quality data in and around the Mersey Estuary.

All this work is showing that industry is not adversely affecting our air quality.  Where we have an air quality issue it is traffic related - and the concerns are not about the M56 - but about the A56.

The evidence shows that the worst effects of traffic pollution are largely confined to the roads themselves.  The pollution 'falls out' over a short distance from the roads.  Necessarily this means that road users - especially pedestrians and cyclists are exposed to traffic pollution as they are walking and cycling along the road.   This exposure is likely to be for a limited time.   However there are a few residential properties that are so close to the road that are more affected.

Our air monitoring has revealed that the Fluin Lane junction with the A56 is one of those areas where residential homes could be affected - and the pollution detected is above the legal (EU) action levels. This has triggered the formal requirement for CWaC to produce an Air Quality Management Plan.

Now this Air Quality Management Plan has, in my view, taken far too long to produce.  It was late when we were promised it would be produced in November 2016.  It was then deferred to the end of February 2017.   CWaC didn't explain to me why the report was late - so I tabled questions and raised the issue in our Council meetings in December 2016 and March 2017.

And now, finally, after more badgering I have finally got to see a draft copy of the Management Plan. I have suggested that the report needs to be extensively revised - and the officers have agreed to do this.  The revisions will take at least a fortnight to produce - so we should expect the document to emerge in May.

The document will be a consultation document - and will suggest how we can reduce the number of homes affected by traffic pollution.  The proposed changes will focus in and around the bottom of Fluin Lane and the junction with the A56 and St Hilda's Drive.  I have pointed out to the officers just how significant that road junction is not just to Frodsham - but also to traffic seeking to get to mid and south Cheshire from the Junction 12 M56, Halton and Merseyside and how we need to make sure everyone's concerns are properly taken into account.

Lynn and I will hold local meetings so as to ensure that those living in the affected homes as well as the wider community get to understand and debate the issues and the potential solutions.

Of course, longer term, the solution to this issue may well lie in us all moving away from using the more polluting vehicles - but this isn't something we can do overnight.

UPDATE:

This is a map taken from the CWaC website showing the air monitoring stations.  The blue ones are diffusion tubes at the roadside.  The orange one denotes kerbside monitoring.  This map shows current and historic sites showing how we've taken a comprehensive look at air quality.

If you want current data you can follow this link to the latest air quality station that is providing live data in Helsby:
http://www.airqualityengland.co.uk/local-authority/?la_id=67