Poor air quality leading to deaths - Truro listed as targeted area

  Posted: 01.10.20 at 18:48 by Richard Whitehouse - Local Democracy Reporter

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Shocking figures have revealed that an estimated 221 people die in Cornwall every year due to exposure to poor air quality.

The data was revealed as Cornwall Council refreshes its Clean Air Strategy which sets out what is being done to try and improve air quality in the Duchy.

Public Health England has made the estimate for how many people die as a result of poor air quality in Cornwall.

James Langley, acting environmental protection manager at Cornwall Council, set out the clean air strategy to the council’s neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee this morning.

He explained that the council had already designated nine Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Cornwall.

These are in Launceston, Grampound, Camelford, Truro, Gunnislake, St Austell, Tideford, Bodmin and Camborne/Pool/Redruth.

AQMAs are places where there have been high levels of nitrogen dioxide recorded – mainly due to road traffic. The council has constant monitoring of air quality in those areas.

Mr Langley said that in 2019 three of the AQMAs showed no exceedings of the nitrogen dioxide levels – they were Bodmin, Camelford and St Austell.

He said that this was encouraging and that it was hoped that at some point the council might be able to stand down some of the AQMAs as levels improve.

Mr Langley said that generally air quality in Cornwall was good but the AQMAs showed that there are areas where it is not as good.

He said there were a number of reasons for poor air quality including that the average age of cars in Cornwall is 10 years old, whereas the national average is seven.

But he said that the council was doing work around providing electric charge points, changing its own fleet of vehicles away from petrol and diesel and providing more and improved cycling and walking routes.

Councillor Cornelius Olivier said that he did not think that the council having a large free car park for staff and visitors at County Hall was fitting with the council’s aims to improve air quality.

He said: “There has been talk recently of getting back to normal as being a good thing, but I think that would be a very bad thing.

“We spend £3.8million a year on travel costs, recompensing mileage and public transport. If working two days a week at home for all staff at County Hall then that would be a good thing.

“We still have a large free car park at County Hall when there is a park and ride which is subsidised and run by the council that is not used by staff and councillors.

“We should not be maintaining a large free car park at County Hall when we have a park and ride that is just not used by staff or councillors.”

Cllr Martyn Alvey said that he was not surprised about the age of vehicles in Cornwall saying: “Cornwall is known as the place that cars come to die.”

He also told of some visitors who contacted him after coming to Cornwall in an electric vehicle but said they probably would not return as they were not confident that there were enough electric charging points in the Duchy.

Cllr Alvey said that the council should do more to encourage businesses, particularly in rural areas, to install charging points.

Mr Langley said that there were now 205 public charging points in Cornwall and another 66 were planned to be installed over the next three years.

The scrutiny committee asked that its comments about the strategy be included in the document.

Cornwall Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve the Clean Air Strategy 2020-2025 at its next meeting.

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