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Conference on air quality takes place in Buckinghamshire

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Around fifty delegates from organisation across Buckinghamshire have attended a conference to talk about air quality in the county.

Organised jointly between the County and District Councils in Buckinghamshire, the aim of the event was to get key people involved in the county’s air quality in the same room at the same time, especially those working in public health, transport and environmental roles.

Delegates were able to find out more about what causes poor air quality, how it impacts peoples health and to explore local solutions to protecting air quality in Buckinghamshire.

Around one in twenty deaths a year in Buckinghamshire can be directly attributed to poor air quality. While the air is generally good in the county there are currently eight air quality management areas in Buckinghamshire with a ninth in the process of being introduced in Iver.

Long term exposure to main pollutants in the air (Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter) contributes to cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, respiratory disease and increased deaths. Even short term exposure has a significant impact on health, making conditions like asthma and allergies worse and it increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

The Government estimates that 80% of NO2 emissions in areas of the UK exceeding the limits are caused by traffic and the majority of these emissions are produced by vans and cars, especially those with diesel engines.

At the moment in Buckinghamshire responsibility for monitoring air quality and producing action plans where pollution levels are too high lies with District Councils. Yet responsibility for public health, traffic and transport strategy lies with the County Council.

Bill Chapple OBE, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment said: ‘No-one should have to put up with poor air in this day and age and I want people to realise how serious an issue this is. While we do have clean air in most parts of Buckinghamshire we absolutely cannot be complacent and we all need to do our bit – individuals included – to make sure the air here is clean for future generations.

We can only do that by having discussions like this one where we all sat down together, learned more about the impacts of air quality, and talked about what we can do together to protect the air in Buckinghamshire and what we all need to do to reduce pollution and improve health.

Noel Brown, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health said: ‘I cannot overstate how serious the health impacts of poor air quality are. 234 deaths in Buckinghamshire in 2016 were directly attributed to poor air quality. If we had that many deaths on our roads we’d be needing to make significant changes and the same applies for air quality.

I’m very grateful to everyone who took the time to attend this fact-finding conference and together we can now start looking at ways to protect air quality here in Buckinghamshire.

There is no safe level of pollution to breathe in. We want to get these emissions down as low as possible to protect our residents health. We can only do this by changing the way we move around and by individuals making changes in their own habits.

As a county council it’s down to us to make it as easy as possible for people to make those changes, so they can reduce car use, walk and cycle more and use public transport, especially in built up areas where these problems are worst.

The eight current air quality management areas in Buckinghamshire are:

  • Friarage Road (AVDC)
  • Tring Road
  • Stoke Road
  • Berkhamstead Road/Broad Street (CDC)
  • M25/M40/M4 (SBDC)
  • High Wycombe (WDC)
  • Marlow
  • M40

This means in these areas pollution levels have exceeded national air quality objectives. These can be found in the schedule of The Air Quality England Regulations 2000. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2000/928/schedule/made.

The biggest cause of pollution in Buckinghamshire is emissions from road transport. Pollution by road transport is exacerbated by slow moving traffic and at busy junctions however people can lessen emissions by choosing alternative modes of transport and, when driving, by avoiding revving their engines and switching the engine off when idling.

Emissions can be further reduced by reducing the weight carried in cars where possible, eg removing unnecessary loads from the boot.

Speakers and subjects at the Air Quality conference were:

  • Martin Tett, Leader, Buckinghamshire County Council
  • Mark Shaw, Deputy Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council, Cabinet Member for Transportation
  • Bill Chapple OBE, Cabinet Member for Planning and Environment, Buckinghamshire County Council
  • Noel Brown, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement and Public Health, Buckinghamshire County Council
  • Air pollution and Health: Dr Jane O’Grady, Director of Public Health, Buckinghamshire
  • Transport Economy Environment: Mark Kemp, Chair of the UK Network Management Board and Jess Everett, Transport Strategy Officer, Buckinghamshire County Council
  • District Councils: Cerys Williams, Chiltern and South Bucks District Councils, Chair of Bucks Air Quality Management Group and District Representatives
  • The Oxfordshire Experience: Luke Marion, Oxford Bus Company and Carousel Buses
  • Public perception of air quality: David Munday, Public Health England, Environmental Hazards and Emergencies Department
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