I welcome the revised plan of Caerphilly County Borough Council to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly to support health improvements. This is a significant final step to ensure we are taking the right action to deliver urgent compliance with the Ambient Air Quality Directive and Welsh regulations.
As a result of non-compliance with Directive 2008/50/EC on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe, the former Minister for Environment signed a legal Direction in February 2018 requiring Caerphilly County Borough to undertake a feasibility study to identify measures to address exceedances of nitrogen dioxide limit values in their area in the soonest time possible.
Caerphilly County Borough Council submitted their plan on 28 June 2019, in accordance with the Direction. The plan proposed demolition of dwellings and relocation of a footpath on the southern side of Hafodyrynys Road at Woodside Terrace. This course of action was modelled to show improved dispersion of pollutants by removing the ‘street canyon’ effect and would also remove those residents most affected by poor air.
An independent expert review panel was convened to assess the plan and provide advice to ensure proposals were based on sound evidence and were likely to achieve compliance with legal limits in the soonest possible time.
Ministers were, however, unable to accept Caerphilly County Borough Council’s plan at the time. The Authority’s plan had not fully met the requirements of the Direction issued in 2018 as there was insufficient confidence the preferred option could achieve the legal requirement. However, the assessment of the demolition of dwellings showed this to be the most likely option to achieve the legal requirement and reduce public exposure in the soonest possible time. The Authority was, therefore, Directed to proceed with this measure whilst undertaking further assessment to improve confidence limit values are likely to be achieved. Funding of over £6m has been awarded to meet the costs of this work including compensation for the acquisition of the dwellings, and work has been progressing at speed to deliver this.
I am pleased to have now received Caerphilly County Borough Council’s revised final plan as required under the terms of their Direction. I commend the Authority for meeting challenging timescales to deliver this. The updated assessment has established, with greater confidence, the preferred option is likely to achieve compliance with nitrogen dioxide limit values in the soonest time possible. This assessment has been supported by our independent expert review panel.
Welsh Government is committed to improving air quality in Wales, but it is clear we face significant challenges in doing so. It is of the utmost importance we take action to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels to below legal limits in the soonest time possible to protect public health and the natural environment.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed of ongoing progress to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly.