Over the weekend there has been extensive publicity nationally and locally regarding poor air quality in Bolsover District. Reports in the media have given the impression that an air quality problem has been identified throughout the Bolsover District Council area, which is not the case.
The problem relates to a stretch of around 200m of footpath adjacent to the A38 between Junction 28 of the M1 and Carter Lane East in South Normanton. There are no dwellings affected by this.
The Government had previously identified the A38 from the M1 junction to the Bolsover District Council boundary as being potentially above the limit for nitrogen dioxide as set out in the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive but that it was expected to fall below the limit by 2021. In March 2018 we were issued with a Ministerial Direction after the Government was challenged in the High Court by the environmental group, Client Earth.
We were required to look at all possible measures that could bring about compliance with the EU limit sooner than 2021. The work done by us concluded that there were no measures that could reasonably be implemented that would bring about compliance any sooner. However, the work done on behalf of the Council found that there were no areas where the public would be exposed to a nitrogen dioxide concentration above the EU limit except for the 200m length of footpath referred to above, but that compliance for this footpath was unlikely to be achieved until 2023 and not 2021 as previously suggested by the Government’s screening model.
It is as a result of this piece of work that the Government are now requiring us to undertake a further study to determine whether there are any steps that could be taken to achieve compliance sooner, given that there is an additional two years to implement any such measures. We have already started this work which will be undertaken in accordance with the Government guidance.
It is worth noting that whilst we have a statutory duty to assess and take steps to bring about an improvement in air quality where necessary, this only relates to sensitive properties such as houses or schools. We are not required to assess air quality in open spaces such as footpaths beside busy roads where there are no houses, for example. The work the Government are requiring us to undertake is additional to our normal local air quality management duties.
We operate an extensive network of nitrogen dioxide monitors at 30 strategic locations throughout the District and without exception the annual mean nitrogen dioxide concentration has been below the UK air quality standard at all locations every year since 2013.