Calls to fine idling vehicles after ‘concerning’ air quality results in Leighton

HIghest levels: Billington Road/ A505 roundabout (photo:google)
HIghest levels: Billington Road/ A505 roundabout (photo:google)

Air quality surveys conducted around Leighton Buzzard reveal “concerning” results, according to South Beds Friends of the Earth.

To coincide with National Clen Air Week (June 23-July 2), FoE have released the findings of their “snapshot” air quality research.

Although the readings fell within EU limits, the group says the figures show concerning concentrations of nitrogen dioxide at different locations across Leighton Buzzard, including key routes to schools and are urging Central Beds Council to cut air pollution by supporting buses and cycling, electric bikes, electric cars, and fining idling vehicles which can produce twice the amount of emissions

In March South Beds FoE put up ten test tubes in eight locations across the Leighton Buzzard area, ranging from Stockgrove Country Park and Station Road in Stanbridge, to Stoke Road to the roundabout by Tesco, and outside Morrisons.

The group says the results give a “a snapshot” from two weeks – which is not same as the average mean monitoring over a year but gives an indication.

Their results were then tested by an independent laboratory Gradko.

The highest NO2 levels of 35.6 µg/m3, just over four points below the EU’s current annual mean limit (40 µg/m³), were recorded at the A505 – Billington Road roundabout, next to the new Roman Gate residential estate, and the lowest levels in Kings Wood, Stockgrove Country Park of 12.42 µg/m3.

They say that despite being still within current EU limits, recent studies have shown that lower concentrations of NO2 can affect human health, increasing the incidence of respiratory conditions as well as cancer. Additionally, the EU Air Quality Directive formally acknowledges that NO2 concentrations above 30 µg/m3 are enough to harm vegetation and ecosystems.

The other areas of concern were the roundabout by Tesco and Vimy Road used as a walking route by many school children which was 30.87 µg/m³. Levels on Leston Road outside Morrisons were also high at 29.9 µg/m3.

Levels in the Market Square, close to the taxis, were 28.57 µg/m³.

Central Beds Council has installed 37 diffusion tubes to monitor NO2 year-round, but only two of these are currently located in Leighton-Linslade; one in Rowley Furrows/Knaves Hill (which South Beds FoE believe leaves out the areas of most traffic) and also at Hocklife Street.

FoE says that a long-term strategy to tackle NO2 emissions across the county would be welcomed, especially in growing towns such as Leighton Buzzard.

Marco Guidici, of South Beds FoE, said: “Children in Leighton Buzzard are being exposed to high levels of air pollution on the way to school, it is the same if they are driven as if they are walking.

“Idling engines near school gates are a particular worry for children’s health. We are calling on Central Beds Council to take action by fining idling engines, supporting cycling walking and buses.

“With all the new building, there is the perfect opportunity to invest in electric bikes and electric cars powered by solar panels.

“On July 6, 7.45pm at All Saints Church at a public meeting, the architect Bill Dunster – who has built developments across the UKand China – will be talking about affordable houses for young people with zero energy bills built above car parks with which have solar roofs to power electric vehicles in the car park below and solar trees to charge electric bikes.”

Calibrated results: A505 roundabout with Billington Rd LU7 9HH (35.60); Kestrel Way by Greenleas School LU7 4WZ (23.08); Morrisons Leston Road LU7 1WS (29.79); Market Square, High Street LU7 1EU (28.57); Church Square LU7 1EX (23.39); Roundabout of Leighton Road and Vimy Road near Tesco LU7 1LA (30.87); Mentmore Road by the entrance to Cedars/ Tiddenfoot LU7 2AF (22.00); Stoke Rd LU7 2SW (24.37); Stockgrove Park, Kings Wood LU7 0BA (12.42); Stanbridge LU7 9JG (19.41).