Scrutiny councillors focus on strategies implemented by the Council to improve air quality in Swansea

Scrutiny councillors on the Natural Environment Scrutiny Panel met late in June to discuss air quality in Swansea and the strategies currently implemented by the Council.

The Panel was pleased to hear about the installation of a ‘Green Screen’ and a PM2.5 analyser along Fabian Way in March 2020. This collaborative effort with the Nature Conservation Team aims to mitigate exposure to engine pollution. The Panel look forward to hear updates regarding the analysis of data surrounding this project to find out whether the installation has had an impact on air quality and noise.

The Panel also discussed issues around Air Pollution Monitoring. The Panel heard about the transboundary effects on Air Quality in Swansea including the increased levels of air pollution during lockdown. Officers explained that Swansea Council utilises both automatic and non-automatic monitoring methods when undertaking Local Air Quality Management duties.

Traffic flow data is collected and analysed, to help understand air quality measurements across Swansea. The Panel queried whether data is collected at specific times, such as dates of major events. Officers explained that although not currently a focus, the capability exists to look into specific days/events and the effect of higher density traffic on localised pollution measurements.

Panel members raised the issue of engine idling at school collection points and concerns that children are subject to concentrated exposure during these times. Cllr. Mark Thomas, cabinet member for Environment Enhancement & Infrastructure Management, reiterated that buses should not be running too long with idle engines. This is also a stipulation within contracts of bus providers. Panel Members suggested that bus operators are encouraged to install monitoring technology to measure engine idling times. Cllr. Thomas took this suggestion on board as a possibility for inclusion within the next tender process.

Victoria Seller, of Swansea University presented at this meeting an overview of air quality strategies in Wales. The Panel felt concerned to hear that air quality has been linked to a huge range of health issues and is attributable to a large number of early deaths in the UK each year. Evidence was also presented linking air pollution to deprivation, disproportionately affecting some communities.

Members of the public are welcome to contribute to the work of scrutiny councillors in Swansea, Panel Members were therefore pleased to receive two questions from members of the public for Cllr Thomas:

  1. Will the council include the monitoring and control of pollution from domestic wood burners as a part of its measures to reduce particulate air pollution? – Cllr. Thomas highlighted that a city-wide approach to monitoring/enforcement is not achievable at present, however, the Council is making continues improvements to Air Quality standards and policies, in the Government guidelines. Officers confirmed that under statutory nuisance provisions, the Council has powers to respond to individual complaints regarding smoke control, and will investigate valid complaints received.
  2. Who in Swansea Council is responsible for developing a strategy to address this serious problem (air pollution)? When will it be given the priority it deserves, in order to save human life and address the costs of taking no action? – Cllr. Thomas acknowledged this as a wider policy issue and undertook to provide a full written answer in due course.

Cllr. Peter Jones, convenor of the Panel has written to Cllr. Thomas highlighting discussions held and requested for a written response. Click here to view this letter and to view details of all reports and discussions held at this meeting.

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