Swaffham air quality in the spotlight

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Breckland Council members will meet next week to consider whether a small part of Swaffham should be classed as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

The proposal, which will be discussed by Breckland Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, has been put forward by the council’s Environmental Protection officers.

It has been prompted by air quality measurements recorded by the council which have shown levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in part of the town around or slightly higher than national guidance levels.

If the plans are agreed, the areas immediately surrounding a 400m stretch of the A1065/Station Street, between Cley Road and Spinners Street, would be declared an Air Quality Management Area.

Parts of this road are narrow with high-sided buildings on either side, making it difficult for nitrogen dioxide to disperse from the area quickly.

Alison Webb, Breckland Council’s Executive Member for People and Information, commented: “The levels of nitrogen dioxide remain very near the national acceptable threshold and are not currently a cause for significant concern.

“They are much lower than levels in large urban areas and cities, but we are proposing this proactive approach to help improve air quality in Swaffham before the situation worsens.”

National air quality objectives state annual average nitrogen dioxide readings should stay below 40ug/m3.

Air quality recordings within the stretch of Swaffham being considered by the report have shown average annual levels which are slightly above this in four of the past six years (concentrations ranging from an annual average of 37.7ug/m3 to 41.63ug/m3).

The main source of nitrogen dioxide in towns is traffic, so Breckland Council has already been working with Norfolk County Council’s Highways team to look at opportunities to reduce the impact of traffic in the area.

Declaring the area an official AQMA would mean the councils would continue to work closely together, plus Breckland would engage with other partners to try to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels. This would include consulting with local residents, the town council, businesses and other organisations to draw up an action plan.

Proposals could include traffic management schemes, encouraging companies to use newer and cleaner delivery and transit vehicles in the area, and other community-focused initiatives.