Pollution blackspot action plan

Low Skellgate in Ripon. January 18, 2012. (NARG 120118jp2)
Low Skellgate in Ripon. January 18, 2012. (NARG 120118jp2)

A PUBLIC consultation on how to tackle an air pollution blackspot affecting residential homes in Ripon is set to be launched.

Nearly two years after a Harrogate Borough Council survey found levels of nitrogen dioxide on Low Skellgate – caused mainly by traffic fumes – breached Government objectives, the local authority will be launching an eight-week consultation in March on how to improve the street’s air quality.

Coun Nick Brown, cabinet member for public protection and rural affairs, said: “We are going to consult as widely as we possibly can to get the best possible feedback on this.”

Following the exercise, the council said it planned to submit an action plan on tackling the problem to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by September.

The extent of the air quality problems on some of Ripon’s streets was first highlighted in a survey published by the council in April 2010, which also showed national target limits on nitrogen dioxide were borderline on High Skellgate and Westgate.

A designated ‘air quality management area’ was set up in November 2010 to cover Low Skellgate following a public consultation by the council on what locations the zone should include. A similar zone was also set up at Bond End, in Knaresborough, at the same time.

Health risks associated with nitrogen dioxide include an increased likelihood of breathing problems, with asthmatics particularly affected. While the council said at the time of the original survey there was no immediate cause for alarm, its environmental protection officers did say the figures for Low Skellgate were at unacceptable levels for long-term exposure.

The latest consultation has been welcomed by campaigners, who have urged for major investment to address the problems in both Ripon and Knaresborough.

Simon Bowens, Yorkshire and Humber campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “One of the biggest problems for air quality is from transport fumes and we need to radically change this.

“Investment needs to come from Government and local authorities in tackling this problem by ending the culture of car dependency.

“Councils must prioritise funding for better public transport and schemes to boost walking and cycling that would cut traffic, slash air pollution and make residents healthier.”

He added: “If we don’t move to address this problem it will begin to have an effect on tourist numbers.

“Tourists love these areas but if people are choked with traffic fumes then they will simply stop coming.”

The proposed consultation for Ripon will include presentations at both the city’s library and market, and leaflets distributed to properties in the area and possibly to commuters living further afield.

lWhat do you think is the best way to bring down high levels of nitrogen dioxide around Low Skellgate? Do you agree the local authority and Government should be aiming to reduce car use, or do you think other changes – such as altering the city’s traffic system – will alleviate the problem? Email your views to news@ripongazette.co.uk or write to The Editor, Ripon Gazette, 5a Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA.