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Clean air zone regime takes shape in Wales

Words: Roger Milne
Congested roads / iStock-914327280

Consultation has begun on the introduction of clean air zones (CAZs) in Wales as part of a government drive to improve air quality, particularly in respect of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), the main source of which is vehicle exhausts.

In some areas of Wales –  particularly in the capital and in Caerphilly alongside a stretch of the A472 – levels of that air pollutant significantly exceed legal limits.

Both the local authorities have been directed by ministers to develop options to bring about compliance with statutory NO2 values “in the soonest time possible”. In the case of Cardiff this is likely to involve a CAZ.

However, at this juncture the administration is not proposing to require local authorities to designate CAZs.

Environment minister Hannah Blythyn said: “We will encourage local authorities to introduce clean air zones where evidence suggests they are needed to reduce harmful emissions.”

The consultation considers what categories of vehicle would be involved, what charges might be levied, and the timing of access restrictions.

Although the focus of CAZs will be on air pollution from vehicles, such zones would also seek to reduce the full range of sources of air pollution and environmental noise, stressed the government.

Other measures just announced by the minister include a £20 million fund to help combat air pollution.

A consultation has also begun on plans to reduce concentrations of NO2, as part of the wider UK plan to tackle roadside NO2 concentrations.  

The minister confirmed that immediate measures, including temporary speed limits, would come into force within the next two months to reduce NO2 levels on roads where levels are currently above legal limits. Among the restrictions will be the introduction of 50 mph speed limits over the short length of the exceedance at five locations. These are:

  • A494 at Deeside;
  • A483 at Wrexham;
  • M4 between Junctions 41 & 42 (Port Talbot);
  • M4 between junctions 25 & 26 (Newport); and
  • A470 between Upper Boat & Pontypridd.

The measures are expected to deliver immediate improvements to air quality at the key locations, with 50mph speed limits expected to reduce emissions by up to 18 per cent.

Image credit | iStock