Kettering council criticised for not taking enough action to tackle air quality

Roads in Kettering and Rothwell have hit high level readings for nitrogen oxide.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 2:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 2:37 pm
Nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles is causing the pollution.

Plans to improve the air quality at Kettering’s most polluted hotspots are moving too slowly according to campaigners.

The Kettering Green Party hit out at Kettering Council at a meeting on Tuesday to discuss how the authority is monitoring the borough’s most polluted roads, saying the council had failed to spot that some of its data sent to the government was incorrect.

The junction of Bowling Green Road and London Road is the most polluted in the borough with average annual readings just under the levels where the authority would have had to take action and declare the spot an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). Bridge Street in Rothwell is another area with high nitrogen oxide levels.

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The Bowling Green Road polluted site (classified by the council as KT11) has been a hotspot for the past few three years but little action has been taken so far to tackle the problem.

The council monitors the nitrogen oxide levels at various sites around the borough using diffusion tubes. The readings are then sent to DEFRA for verification which then sends a report back to the council. So far only 2018 levels have been verified.

In a passionate speech Green Party member Jamie Wildman accused the council of ‘blatant misrepresentation’ of its figures saying that a recording for June 2018 was incorrect and had affected the annual 2018 readings.

He said: “KT11 actually exceeds the 40 microgram Air Quality Objectives threshold on eight months of eleven in 2018. And this is right now – air pollution at the site is inevitably going to worsen as Hanwood Park traffic increases. How many months before the council stops monitoring the situation and takes action to remedy it?

“What we cannot fathom is how an incorrect figure can possibly go undetected, especially when it potentially has significant implications for air quality management in Kettering, including the declaration of an AQMA that the council has so far avoided, and which would require a significant reaction from these offices in order to reduce the dangerous levels of pollutants that Kettering residents are already unknowingly inhaling.”

Labour’s Cllr Anne Lee echoed the campaigners’ concerns.

She said: “The pace is too slow. We are not taking this seriously. This evening on the way here I saw a group from Kettering Town Harriers running up London Road. I thought – you are running up the most polluted road and your council is not doing anything to protect you.”

Head of Public Services Shirley Plenderleith said the council had been working with the county on a traffic plan for the Bowling Green Road junction but that it was unlikely to make only a subtle impact on nitrogen oxide levels.

The authority has also secured funding from the Office of Low Emission Vehicle to install electric car charging points at some of its car parks and has commissioned consultants to carry out a review of how the council could tackle air quality issues better.

The authority’s executive director Lisa Hyde said Kettering Council’s replacement with a unitary authority in April next year – which will bring highways and environmental services under one council – should make a difference to the speed things were being done.

If the council does declare the air pollution hotspot as an air quality management area it will have to consult with local residents and businesses, highways and public health and set devise a series of measures to lower the nitrogen oxide levels.

The British Heart Foundation said recently that as many as 1700 people could die in Northamptonshire in the next decade because of poor air quality.