Local Air Quality Management
Air pollution can be caused by a range of different airborne substances, some of which may be relevant even when present at very low levels in the air. Several air pollutants have been shown to have a potential significant effect upon people’s health and wellbeing, affecting both the length of life and the quality of life experienced. The Clean Air Hub website offers additional information on the air pollutants that can often be experienced and also how air pollution plays an important role in our health and wellbeing.
Recognising the importance of air quality, the Environmental Protection and Housing Team routinely assesses outdoor air quality in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Overtime, these assessments have targeted the most relevant air pollutants to the public: -
- Nitrogen Dioxide [NO2] is a gas, usually undetectable in the very low levels often experienced in our environment. It is mostly associated with combustion, for instance industrial furnaces, domestic solid fuel or gas-fired heating and petrol and diesel powered road traffic. Its levels can sometimes be higher in dense urban areas as well as locations near busy or very congested roads.
- Particulate Matter [PM] is a mixture of many different solid-like substances that can be suspended in the air we breathe. Very small sized Particulate Matter, often labelled as PM10 and PM2.5, are invisible to humans but can be breathed in and even absorbed by our bodies. Lots of different natural and human actions can cause Particulate Matter, including combustion, the wearing of road surfaces, agricultural activities, salting and the wind generally collecting and transporting Particulate Matter.
Due to the importance of certain air pollutants, Regulations have set Air Quality Objectives that the Council should be mindful of and where appropriate work towards achieving. As such the monitoring of air quality in Rhondda Cynon Taf has been undertaken since the 1990’s and each year the Council publishes a report on local air quality. These reports provide information on the statutory process, up to date local monitoring data and the analysis of local air quality. Most recently the Council has published the 2021 Progress Report.
What Can You Do About Local Air Quality
There are many actions that can be taken to help improve local air quality. Some of these actions may require the Council and its partners to implement change where other actions may be undertaken by schools, local communities, households and individuals.
More information on how a school can help lead air quality improvement, including year-group specific resources, can be found on the Clean Air Day website.
Also households and individuals may find tailored information and resources, both on how to potentially reduce exposure to air pollution and how to reduce it, on the Clean Air Day website.
The Council also welcomes engagement and suggestions from the community about possible local actions that could be taken to improve local air quality. To help awareness of air quality, a national Clean Air Day will be held on the 16th June 2022. Further information and possible virtual events can be found on the Clean Air Day website.
Air Quality Monitoring
The Council maintains a network of monitoring sites throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf, so as to better understand local air quality and the actions that can effect it. The results of this monitoring are combined with data collected by other local authorities in Wales and, together with comments on national air quality (including the current pollution status across Wales), may be viewed on the Air Quality in Wales website.
2021 Progress Report
The law requires the Local Authority to regularly check air quality in its area against Air Quality Objectives. In doing so, the Local Authority has identified two air pollutants, Nitrogen Dioxide [NO2] and Fine Particulate Matter [PM10], as requiring closer examination. The 2021 Annual Air Quality Progress Report contains an assessment of recent monitoring data for NO2 and PM10 as well as a review of newly consented developments, new and ongoing areas of interest and relevant Local Authority policies.
With the emergence of COVID-19 within society, as well as related substantial disruption caused to many previously normal ways of life, it is not surprising that 2020 observes unparalleled changes to local air quality, with substantial reductions in air pollution observed throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf. The effects of this event are both complex and challenging, which have, for now, significantly affected the ability to consider the longer-term aspects of local air quality management. As such the normal scope and practice of the annual air quality progress report has inevitably been amended, with greater future uncertainty acknowledged.
Even with the events of 2020, some long running local air quality trends have remained pertinent and it is still the case that the vast majority of Rhondda Cynon Taf experiences good air quality, which is likely to remain so into the future and potentially continue to improve. Only some small areas associated with busy urban road junctions, the regional road network or specific local sources are likely to be vulnerable to poor air quality. It is believed these vulnerable areas, linked to historically high levels of NO2, have already been declared Air Quality Management Areas and in contrast to most locations, the air quality in these vulnerable areas may not improve as rapidly as elsewhere over the long-term.
It is possible that during 2020 the impact of Craig Yr Hesg Quarry on local PM10 levels may have continued to have been subdued. This change, which has been observed since 2015, may be as a result of ongoing improvements to reduce PM10 emissions from Craig Yr Hesg Quarry. Natural changes to locally prevailing weather and possible future changes at Craig Yr Hesg Quarry, means it is difficult to know if future compliance will continue. As such the Local Authority will, continue to monitor PM10 levels at Glyncoch, resources and circumstances permitting.
In recognising the potential effects of climate change and the ‘win win’ which may be realised by an holistic approach to environmental issues, the Local Authority continues to advance key local climate change strategies and programmes. This has included, progressing an Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy and an ambitious renewable energy generation programme. To capitalise on the establishing momentum driving forward climate change action, the Local Authority has also launched its ‘climate conversation’ to help raise public awareness of the climate crisis.
Air Quality Managements Areas
Air Quality Management Areas are declared by the Council via Order under Section 83(1) of the Environment Act 1995. In response to breaches of the Air Quality Objectives for Nitrogen Dioxide, there are currently sixteen Air Quality Management Areas within Rhondda Cynon Taf:-
- Aberdare Town Centre Air Quality Management Area
- Broadway Air Quality Management Area
- Church Village Air Quality Management Area
- Cilfynydd Air Quality Management Area
- Cymmer Air Quality Management Area
- Ferndale Air Quality Management Area
- Llanharan Air Quality Management Area
- Llwynypia Air Quality Management Area
- Mountain Ash Town Centre Air Quality Management Area
- Mwyndy Air Quality Management Area
- Nantgarw Air Quality Management Area
- Nightingales Bush Air Quality Management Area
- Pontypridd Town Centre Air Quality Management Area
- Tonyrefail Air Quality Management Area
- Treforest Air Quality Management Area
- Tylorstown Air Quality Management Area
The Council has produced individual Air Quality Action Plans, for each Air Quality Management Area, which set out actions which may improve air quality within them and further the Councils goal to achieve compliance with the relevant Air Quality Objective throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf.
In implementing the Air Quality Action Plans it is also possible that greater benefits will also be realised, for instance furthering the Councils duties in relation to active travel. The actions detailed within the Air Quality Action Plans include a broad range of aspirations and mechanisms to affect local air quality. Some of the actions are specific to an Air Quality Management Area, where others may provide borough wide improvement. The actions are broadly outlined below:
- Exploring potential locally targeted changes to existing traffic management to reduce or displace traffic congestion at high risk locations.
- Exploring potential locally targeted increased traffic waiting and parking restrictions or the availability of alternative provisions and their enforcement at specific areas to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.
- Possible local rearrangement of a bus stop to reduce the impact of bus waiting on local traffic congestion.
- Advocating the reduction in permitted speed along part of the A470.
- Supporting the effective implementation of the South East Wales Metro and electrification of the South Wales Central Valley Line.
- Encouraging borough wide behavioural change by the use of existing resources and policy mechanisms to influence greater uptake of public transport, car sharing and efficient journey planning.
Air Quality Actions
The Council, with the assistance of its partners, has undertaken several local air quality improvement actions identified within the adopted Air Quality Action Plans, including: -
- Improvements to the infrastructure and traffic management system of the road traffic lights at the junction of Cardiff St and Station St and Cross St, Aberdare to help reduce unnecessary waiting times along Cardiff St.
- Improvements to the traffic management system of the traffic lights at the junction of Oxford St and Commercial St, Mountain Ash to help reduce unnecessary waiting times along Oxford St as well as working to complete the southern Cynon Valley cross-link road scheme.
- Improvement to lane capacity and the traffic management system of the traffic lights at the junction of Broadway and Sardis Rd to help reduce unnecessary waiting times along Broadway
- Installing and repairing street lighting on routes near Pontypridd High School to encourage walking and cycling.
- Engaging with Pontypridd High School and Ferndale High School to consider pilot projects which could increase active travel.
- Publishing a number of leaflets containing public transport and active travel information for the Pontypridd, Porth and Ferndale Areas.
- Supporting the reduction in the speed limit along part of the A470 between Upper Boat and Pontypridd.
- Enabling significant expansion and improvement to ‘park and ride’ facilities at a number of locations associated with local railway routes.
- Progressing design and planning work in relation to the Llanharan bypass.
- Working collaboratively with its partners, including Cwm Taf Local Health Board, to identify local communities that would most benefit from actions to improve local air quality
As projects are delivered, impacts will be examined within future air quality reports. In recognition of the exceptional public health related actions associated with the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 response and the inevitable short-term and potential longer-term changes to how society goes about much of its activity. Air Quality in 2021, and potentially beyond, is expected to experience considerable uncertainties and encounter challenges which may cause a delay in fully understanding local air quality trends and the effect of improvement actions. Nonetheless, the Council will continue to work with its partners to fund and implement other actions within its Air Quality Action Plans as and when possible.
Tel: 01443 425001