Council Watch March 2024 - LCWIP and Air Quality Public Consultations

Council Watch March 2024 - LCWIP and Air Quality Public Consultations
Photo credit: Mary Turner / Climate Visuals

Here at CA-WN we try to make a habit of both responding to relevant consultations issued by West Northamptonshire Council, and of sharing those responses with our audience.

We did not respond to the recent consultations on Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans (LCWIPs) for Daventry, Brackley and Towcester as critiquing their proposals required a level of local knowledge that we don’t possess. I hope some of you did take the opportunity to respond if these plans affected your neighbourhoods. The LCWIP for Northampton has not yet reached the consultation stage - you can read more about that and about LCWIPs more generally in the latest piece from our Transport Correspondent Peter Doveston.

There’s been a lot of talk about air quality in West Northamptonshire in recent months, entirely due to the good work of the 1000 Voices campaign1, along with the Northampton Clean Air Group. It is true that air quality in our area has not reached the appalling state of some cities in other parts of the world where it is barely possible to see the skyline for smog and children cannot safely play outside. However when CA-WN carried out our own air quality study in West Northamptonshire we found that levels of particulates in the air were closely related to periods of heavy road traffic and the times of day when homes are being heated in winter.

According to guidance published by the snappily named government body The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, or OHID2:

“In the UK, air pollution is the largest environmental risk to public health”
 “The annual mortality of human-made air pollution in the UK is roughly equivalent to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year. It is estimated that between 2017 and 2025 the total cost to the NHS and social care system of air pollutants (fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide), for which there is more robust evidence for an association, will be £1.6 billion.”

There is no reason to think West Northamptonshire is immune to this, therefore the council’s Draft Air Quality Action Plan, currently being consulted on, is very much needed. So is the high level Air Quality Strategy due to be completed in 2025. We have got nearly 3 years into the tenure of this council without either an action plan or a strategy on air quality.

CA-WN has responded to the consultation and our response is reproduced below for your information - feel free to make use of it in your own response. We recommend making full use of the ‘Other Comments’ section as the consultation questionnaire offers limited scope elsewhere for respondents to share their views on the 78-page Draft Air Quality Action Plan. Although a substantial part of this document is devoted to setting out relevant policy and regulatory background. If you are short of reading time jump to the table of Air Quality Action Plan Measures on pages 43-48.

Please respond to this consultation if you possibly can – it is so important to let our local politicians know that air quality matters to us as residents. It closes on 17 March.

WNC Draft Air Quality Action Plan - notes on suggested responses
(We haven’t included responses to most of the tick-box questions)

In your opinion, how do you feel about the current level of air pollution within the last 3 years, since the Covid-19 pandemic:
We selected ‘It has got worse’ as our response for all three options (Locally; Nationally; Worldwide)

Please use the space below if you would like to let us know why you answered the above question in the way that you did:
CA-WN response:
Air quality definitely improved during the pandemic and has since got worse as we have all gone ‘back to normal’.

Further comments:
CA-WN response:
There is no objection to removal of Air Quality Management Areas if air quality in those areas will continue to be actively monitored to enable future issues to be identified.
Regarding the relative importance of the suggested actions:
- Public awareness and education campaigns will be ineffective if the current infrastructure doesn't change. If public transport and active travel are safe, inexpensive and convenient in comparison to travelling by car, people are empowered to make different choices.
- Planning controls are extremely important - new homes reliant on burning methane gas for heating and hot water must not be permitted. New residential and commercial developments must be required to plan and deliver permanent high quality infrastructure for access by public transport and active travel.
- The council needs to call a halt to the practice of building more roads as a solution to congestion. Easing congestion makes driving more attractive and therefore may result in more car journeys not fewer. Money should instead be spent on measures to make other means of transport more attractive - good quality public transport, and safe segregated lanes for cycles and scooters for example.

Have your say on our plans to improve Air Quality - West Northamptonshire Council - Citizen Space
Find and participate in consultations run by West Northamptonshire Council


1 1000 Voices

2 OHID Air Pollution Guidance