Have your say on improving air quality

Somerset County Council, on behalf of the multi-agency Somerset Air Quality Steering Group, is seeking the views of the community on a draft Somerset Air Quality Strategy.  

Air quality has been in the national news a lot in recent years, with concerns over vehicle exhaust emissions in particular, when real world testing showed that emissions were often many times those found in controlled laboratory conditions. 

Air quality in Somerset is generally good, but in our major towns traffic pollution leads at times to relatively high levels of some pollutants which have harmful effects on health.  

Now an expert group has produced a draft air quality strategy for Somerset and wants your input to help shape the final version. 

Announcing the launch of the consultation, Councillor Christine Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, Somerset County Council said, "We are very lucky in Somerset not to suffer from the poor air quality that sometimes afflicts nearby cities such as Bristol.  But we do have some hotspots, and even where EU standards are met, at certain times and places, when unfavourable weather and traffic conditions coincide, air at busy roads and junctions is certainly not clean. 

"Many may not realise that the people inside cars are often the worst exposed, because the air intakes at the front of the car pull in air from the exhaust pipe of the car in front!   We can all help to reduce this burden on public health in the choices we make."

Public Health England estimates premature mortality in Somerset equivalent to 244 deaths a year, amounting to an estimated 2350 years of life lost in this county due to small particulate air pollution alone.  Other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide add to this burden.

The public face of the strategy will be a new website https://somersetairquality.wordpress.com/ to provide a reliable source of information and support for individuals, schools, councils, businesses and developers.  It is intended to help the whole community understand the issues and what they can do to improve the air in their local areas. By our choices as councils, individuals and businesses we can make a difference to air quality and public health.

Other recommendations include having a consistent approach to requiring air quality assessments as part of planning applications for major new developments;  businesses and public authorities using procurement, licensing and financial approaches to accelerate progress towards use of cleaner vehicles; and monitoring of very fine particulate pollution.

You can have your say on the recommendations in the air quality strategy and the website content by visiting Somerset County Council's consultation page at https://bit.ly/2mFPkbs or find it at www.somersetconsults.org.uk . The consultation period runs until the end of September.