Air Quality is a priority for all.
Yesterday, I attended a meeting between South Cambs and City Council concerning Highway England’s (HE) alleged breach of planning conditions on the A14 Improvement Scheme regarding air quality monitoring. In 2016, Cambridge City Council, representing both local authorities, successfully negotiated a landmark decision with the Inspector for the need for additional baseline and monitoring of air quality along the A14 scheme, particularly for the more dangerous particulates pm2.5 Technological advancements in engine design will continue to drive down emissions despite the projected increase in vehicles on the roads. Nevertheless, there was concern regarding the HE objective and model that not only would air quality not worsen, but ‘air quality would be improved’ at the end of the construction works. The Inspector agreed that the model needed to be validated by monitoring. It was agreed, as part of the planning conditions, therefore, that HE should pay the cost for additional monitors, baseline data, monitoring and post-construction monitoring with potential post-construction mitigation measures if air quality is shown to have deteriorated.
Worryingly, the additional air quality monitors were not in place prior to the commencement of works, as required by the planning consent order (DCO). Nor is there evidence of them yet being in place and generating/sharing data with the local authorities. This is one of the priority issues that the Engagement Group (HE, A14 team, South Cambs and the residents’ A14 Action Group) will be discussing at their next meeting. Meanwhile, the local authorities are working jointly to address this situation and require immediate confirmation of compliance. The clocks can’t be turned back. However, the data is still extremely important. It is probably necessary, therefore, to undertake additional data analysis with other monitors in order to establish what the baseline would have looked like (according to nationally-sanctioned DEFRA guidelines for such types of modelling). Then HE can undertake the monitoring, as required, and the local authorities can validate both compliance and air quality conditions.
It is extremely important for both local authorities, and particularly for myself as Chair of the new SCDC Climate and Environment Committe that we effectively understand and put in place polices and strategies to safeguard residents from dangerous level of air pollution. I look forward to cooperation between the two local authorities in this regard.