The market towns with the filthiest air in the West
Market towns across the West without a bypass regularly break EU rules on levels of nitrous oxide in the air because traffic congestion throughout the day.
And now council chiefs in one part of the region are trying to see just how bad the problem is with an increase in the number of air quality monitors on the busiest roads into town centres.
The problem is thought to be the worst in the region in Bradford on Avon, where all the traffic is funnelled across the medieval town bridge, and attempts to build a bypass for the road between Bath and Trowbridge have failed over previous decades.
Yesterday, health chiefs said the information gleaned from the monitors will give them the ammunition they need to introduce measures to curb traffic congestion – with the admission that in Bradford, and in Devizes too, a multi-million pound bypass is not an affordable option.
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Wiltshire Council lost its last big attempt to build a bypass around a market town when the £33 million Westbury bypass was thrown out by government planning inspectors. But traffic congestion, heavy lorries and air pollution in towns like Calne, Bradford, Devizes, Westbury and Lydney in the Forest of Dean is getting worse.
The air quality monitor installed in Bradford’s Masons Lane yesterday will give detailed readings on a range of pollutants and be, according to the council, “the scientific evidence behind new moves to look at managing 21st century traffic around the historic streets”.
“We know many journeys around Bradford on Avon cover only a few miles and we want to encourage people to think of using other forms of transport such as walking or cycling to get around,” said Wiltshire’s director of public health, Maggie Rae.
“Placing this monitor at the busiest road in the town will give us detailed readings which can help inform future initiatives,” she added.
In Devizes, a recent survey discovered 70 per cent of the cars clogging up the roads are people from the town travelling to somewhere else in the town. Childhood obesity and respiratory illnesses are higher in Devizes than in much of the rest of Wiltshire.
Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott said it was not realistic to lobby for a bypass.
“Wiltshire is a beautiful rural county which doesn’t generally have issues with air quality,” said the councillor in charge of public health, Keith Humphries. “However, we know where there is a build-up of traffic there can be pollution. We are taking it seriously and doing what we can to monitor those spots.”