Air Quality

Statement submitted to committee on January 16th

On average everyone in the UK stands to lose 7-8 months of their lifetime due to poor air quality.  Air pollution near our family home is at illegal levels even now and it is making our children ill; the proposed development will make it worse.  My son is six.  He was last admitted to hospital on Christmas Day, his seventh admission since moving to Horfield which is when his asthma began. Effects on other people will include heart attacks, bronchiolitis and increasing the incidence of cot death.  The Council has a legally binding duty to work towards better air quality and not to make it worse (NPPF para.124). Permitting a development that will lead to deterioration in air quality is against the council’s duty to protect public health, and its stated aims in its core strategy (Bristol Development Core strategy page 14: “Reducing pollution throughout the city and improving air and water quality, noise and light pollution particularly in the inner city and within the Air Quality Management Areas”).

The facts and figures you have been given by the applicant are wrong and misleading.  The applicant’s fourth and final Air Quality Assessment (November 2012), entitled ‘Worst Case Scenario’ includes important adjustments overlooked in the previous three assessments; adjustments prompted not by Bristol City Council, but by TRASH campaigners.  This document suggests a possible 19.9% increase in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentration at 29 Filton Avenue.  This magnitude of change would move the entire locality into serious breach of the EU limit value.  However this ‘worst case scenario’ still rests upon a ‘best case scenario’ assumption of an annual fall in baseline NO2 figures greater than 3%.   Projecting forward to 2018 enables this assumed annual fall to cancel out the increase in pollution caused by 2,000,000 visits to the store a year – on paper that is.

Crucially, local data informs us that the trend for NO2 concentration in Bristol is stable.  In 2012 Bristol City Council stated ‘since 1999 the trajectory for ambient NO2 concentrations is stable despite efforts to reduce NO2 through the air action plan’ (2012 Air Quality Updating and Screening Assessment, page 56)

Defra’s Note on Projecting NO2 Concentrations (April 2012) suggests a more cautious approach to modelling should be adopted when:
 The measured values are within 10% of the Air Quality Objectives (AQO) or,
 If impacts are predicted to be greater than small magnitude, or
 Where there is long term local information giving better guidance on the local trends.

The applicant has pointed out however that “This note is not part of the Technical Guidance for Local Air Quality Management 2009 and as such does not form statutory guidance.”  This attitude is contrary to the duty of care that the Council has to protect public health and contradicts the case officer’s assertion on page 41 of his report that the assessment ‘complies with statutory and non-statutory guidance’.

Defra’s Note (April 2012) suggests a number of more cautious approaches to projecting NO2 concentrations. Carslaw et al state that from their analysis of UK measurement trends that it would be more realistic to consider an annual reduction of 0.8%. The applicant relies on a model verified by reference to a single measurement point on Strathmore Road – a diffusion tube that is mounted incorrectly.  If we were to use the Carslaw et al 0.8% annual fall then the 40µg/m3 EU limit would still be exceeded at Strathmore Road in 2018.

A further diffusion tube situated on Filton Avenue/Muller Road junction was removed in 2007, despite measured NO2 being extremely high (50% higher than the EU legal limit).  It is reasonable to conclude that this area should have been included in the nearby Air Quality Management Area.  Using the more cautious reduction of Carslaw et al this location would be at 49µg/m3 in 2018.

The accepted financial mitigation for exceedences is derisory.  Any mitigation should seek to enforce changes that will actually reduce air quality exceedence such as insisting upon the closure of car park spaces and encouraging less polluting modes of getting to the supermarket.

It is negligent to accept uncertainties in a risk assessment when it is easy to eliminate them. The Council has had ample opportunity since the presentation of the planning application to the Council on the 4th May 2012 to carry out full and proper testing of NO2 levels in the area. After all, at about £8.00 per tube per month such an exercise is not expensive and would provide actual levels of this type of pollution rather than rely on a modeling exercise.  In the absence of these properly taken measurements, to apply the precautionary principle must be applied and the application refused.

It is not possible to consider the impact of this development unless a realistic projection of the 2018 NO2 concentration calculated taking account of the statutory and non-statutory recommendations in Defra’s Note and using the local data that is available in an effort to more accurately assess the risk to public health.  This application should be refused as it has failed in its attempt to adequately assess the risk to the public health.

The European Commission has not accepted the case for postponement of compliance with air quality targets for the city of Bristol and Bristol City Council has a duty to its taxpayers to avoid the possibility of significant infraction fines under the Localism Act which could run to millions of pounds.

Committee, we wholeheartedly urge you to refuse this application on the grounds of air quality impact.

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