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Agenda item

Air Quality in County Durham

a)       Report of Corporate Director of Regeneration and Local Services

b)       Presentation by Denyse Holman, Pollution Manager, Regeneration and Local Services


The Committee considered the report of the Director of Regeneration and Local Services that provided Members with details of progress on all air quality management work projects since the previous meeting on 14 July 2017 (for copy, see file on minutes).


The Senior Air Quality Officer was in attendance to provide a presentation focusing on the following:-


  • The outcome of further monitoring across both Durham City and at Chester le Street during 2017 and how this compared with the previous year.


  • The action now required and being progressed on the outcome of the results of the monitoring carried out in 2017.


  • A summary of the progress made on the implementation of the action measures in the Durham City Air Quality Action Plan.


  • An outline of further steps and actions to be taken during the next 12 months and also over a longer time frame. The requirement to continue to submit the Annual Air Quality Status Report to DEFRA and the feedback received from this would influence further action required going forward.


The Senior Air Quality Officer advised members of the hot spot areas in Durham City but advised caution as there could be variability in the results because of metrological conditions.


Members were advised of the placement of monitors and that an anayliser had been located on Hawthorne Terrace in Durham City.  Members were provided with information in relation to daily monitoring for 10 September 2018, which clearly indicates peaks and troughs especially in the morning and late afternoon.  The Senior Air Quality Officer suggested that an interesting comparison would be to look at the results for term time with non-term time.


Members learned that further meetings of the Air Quality and Corporate Steering Group would take place to review the implementation of the action plan measures and the outcome of monitoring for improvements in air quality.


The Chairman thanked the Senior Air Quality Officer for his very informative presentation.


Councillor Brown referred to a number of complaints she had received in relation to engines idling and she assumed the problem was county wide. She referred to legislation which made this an offence and indicated that she would like to see more done to enforce this and asked if anymore could be done.


The Strategic Traffic Manager responded that in relation to The Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) Regulations 2002 a local authority can seek powers from the Secretary of State to enforce drivers to turn off their engines. We have not got this consent because the authority would need to demonstrate via the AQMA levels in continuous excess pollution in the air, which we do not have. The hurdles to adopt this would be unsurmountable and a campaign would be much more productive. There were also a number of reasons why people could refuse the fine i.e. it was a cold day so they were sitting with the engine running to keep warm.


Councillor Brown asked if stickers could be placed in various locations to ask motorists to turn off their engine.


The Chairman responded that it was difficult to enforce so the best way forward was education.


Councillor Jopling asked if the authority intended to expand the park and ride.


The Strategic Traffic Manager indicated that they were looking at expanding two of the park and ride sites and introduce an additional site, and two potential sites had been identified. He advised that European Funding was still available and they were submitting a bid next month. Regionally, NECCA were moving to the next stage of the ‘Transforming Cities Fund’, there was no guarantee that the park and ride scheme would form part of this scheme but they were also submitting a bid for capital from the authority.


Councillor Jopling asked if they placed notices to remind motorist to switch off their engines, would this be legal.


The Strategic Traffic Manager indicated that they could do a campaign and ask schools to design their own notice.


Councillor Jopling then referred to taxi ranks where there can be numerous taxis with their engines idling and asked what could be done to address this. The Senior Air Quality Officer responded that taxi ranks were of concern to them and there was a taxi liaison group where this could be raised.


Councillor Sexton referred to Menceforth Cottages, Chester-le-Street which now measured below 36 µg m-3, however the report presented to the committee last year reported that the levels were high.


The Officer responded that AQMA was declared four years ago but the last three years the readings have measured below the annual mean objective. The 2016/17 reading showed a slight increase which was why they continued to monitor for a further six months then the reading decreased and last year was less than the 10% annual mean monitoring, so below 36 µg m-3.


Councillor Sexton sought clarification on why the annual mean objective had dropped so this could be applied to other areas. The Officer responded that the DEFRA guidelines indicated that if the readings had complied for three years then the Air Quality Management Plan could be revoked.


Councillor Howell highlighted that there were significant peaks shown on the chart within the presentation and asked if this measure went beyond the average mean through an average day. The Strategic Traffic Officer advised that the short-term average was one hour with a reading of 200mg/m³ and nowhere in County Durham where this measurement was exceeded. In response to a further question from Councillor Howell the Strategic Traffic Manager advised that Durham City had an Air Quality Action Plan because the City was above the annual mean.


Councillor Martin in relation to engine idling suggested that it would be interesting to look at data and asked if the local authority had any powers to take air quality under their control and do something about it as they couldn’t enforce people to use public transport or the park and ride or was education the only attack. The Senior Air Quality Officer advised that the local authority has powers to a certain extent and that it was difficult to get people to change their habits.


Councillor Dunn indicated that pollution and education were important and the one thing that could be done was to change people’s purchasing options such as the start stop technology on vehicles that stopped the engine when the vehicle was stationary and suggested campaigning for a preference of this type of vehicle. There were electric/hybrid buses in use that used this type of technology and were much cleaner for the environment and suggested that perhaps taxis should have start/stop technology. Taxis made a huge contribution to idling but start stop technology would reduce this. He then referred to the extension of the park and ride and that the authority were looking a two other sites and did this include a site at Shincliffe which could serve the South East side of Durham. The Officer responded that the sites identified for a further Park and Ride were west of the city.


The Strategic Traffic Manager advised that the authority was looking at an additional park and ride site to the west of the city.


The Chairman indicated that there was lots that could be done by the way of education and cheaper electric cars could make a big impact.


Councillor Clark referred to the park and ride and that more was needed to be done to advertise this service in particular for people visiting the Hospital and suggested that the park and ride routes should be reviewed to look at the areas they serve and where people travel to. She would support Councillor Dunn’s suggestion of a park and ride at Shincliffe.


The Officer responded that there was potential for lots of changes in Durham and if people purchased a pop card the cost of the park and ride was £1.70 as opposed to £2.00. There was also free concession travel for the elderly which included the shuttle between Sniperley and the Hospital.


Councillor Jopling indicated they could not force people to use the park and ride but people did use it. She advised that she was supportive of an expansion of the park and ride so more people could use it and found it much more cost effective than paying premium rate parking charges,


Mr R Cornwell, a member of the public asked if the authority were measuring particulates from diesel engines and if so, they did not appear in the report. As a Durham City parish Councillor he was concerned about taxis idling and would suggest that the licensing policy be revised to make it a requirement that replacement vehicles were hybrid and people would benefit from cleaner air.


The Senior Air Quality Officer responded that monitors at Gilesgate roundabout and Alexandra Crescent measured nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide and PM 10, the measurements were taken continuously. He advised that the Air Quality team were doing a study of the impact of taxis with their engine idling on pollution in the city and when this work was complete and results indicate this is the case they would be putting pressure on the licensing authority.


Ms George a member of the public from Durham City referred to the student population in the city who had their own vehicles and of the impact this had on the congestion of roads and pollution as when the university is in recess there were less vehicles on the road. Ms George asked if the Council worked with the university to reduce the number of students who brought vehicles with them and suggested that they could walk or use other means of transport so there was no requirement for a car. She also asked why the authority were encouraging more cars into narrow streets in the future and a further multi storey with 200 parking spaces at the Sands where there were already air quality hot spots.


The Strategic Traffic Manager referred to the impact of student vehicles and advised that in the summer there were a variety of reasons for less congestion such as school holidays so no school runs, which impacted on the number of vehicles been reduced and that students not being in residence had little impact on the number of vehicles on the roads. The peak periods of congestion were morning and evening commuter traffic and few students were travelling at these times therefore student vehicles had little impact on the city’s congestion or pollution, however the authority would always encourage cycling and walking.


Councillor Sexton asked if there was a response in relation to more car parks.


The Strategic Traffic Manager advised that this was alluding to the proposed new DCC headquarters that would be considered by the planning committee and was subject to an open planning consultation and information on the headquarters was available on the council’s website.


Resolved: (i) That the report and presentation be noted.


(ii) That the Committee receive a further report detailing progress on the development of air quality management within County Durham.

Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714