Welsh Government outlines further air quality work

The Welsh Government has published its supplement to the UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Wales – promising to finalise its proposals by June 2019.

Welsh Ministers admitted in the Court in January that they had failed to bring forward a firm plan to improve air quality and meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions (see airqualitynews.com story).

The Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff

The Court set a July 31 deadline for the Welsh Government to put together a new plan that would address roadside air pollution – later extended to 30 November.

The document published yesterday sets out actions the Welsh Government is taking on five sites on the Welsh Government Managed Road Network and in two Welsh local authority areas. The actions are designed to achieve legal limits for NO2 within the shortest possible time.

Temporary 50 mph speed limits were introduced in June at the five sections of the Motorway and Trunk Road Network which exceed legal limits. The plan proposes to make these speed limits permanent, along with the introduction of variable diversion routes in Newport. The speed limits and diversion will be subject to review periodically.

The Welsh Government has placed a Direction on Cardiff and Caerphilly councils to undertake an assessment by 30 June 2019 to identify the best option to achieve statutory NO2 limit values within the shortest possible time.

Funding

The Welsh Government has also allocated £20 million towards supporting the two local authorities to achieve compliance.

The Welsh Government will be publishing a Clean Air Plan for Wales next year which will identify key pollutants, their effects on public health and the natural environment in Wales and what actions needs to be taken to improve air quality.

Environment Minister, Hannah Blythyn, said: “Everyone in Wales has the right to clean air. We are working actively, alongside the other UK nations, to transform our most polluted towns and cities into clean and healthy urban spaces.

“While the focus of this plan is to reduce concentrations of NO2 around roads where exceedances have been identified, we are developing a range of other measures to improve air quality. We are committed to making improvements to air quality in Wales through planning, infrastructure, regulation and health communication measures.”

Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said: “To deliver immediate improvements to air quality, temporary 50 mph speed limits were introduced at the five sections of the Motorway and Trunk Road Network until the outcome of the further work was known.

“It’s important to remember an estimated 23,500 deaths are caused in the UK each year by long-term nitrogen dioxide exposure. We must therefore ensure action is taken to not only meet our legal obligations but, most importantly, provide the right conditions for better health and well-being.”