Agenda item

Air quality and health

To receive an update on Air Quality and Health. (20 mins)


Members were updated on Air Quality and health in the Borough.


During the discussion of this item the following points were made:

·         The Committee had been updated on air quality in the Borough in 2015 following the publication in 2014 of a report by Public Health England (PHE), ‘Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution’ which demonstrated that long term exposure to particulate air pollution contributed to deaths from respiratory and cardiovascular causes.

·         Pollution came from a number of sources.  The key pollutants included particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen based compounds.

·         Julie Hotchkiss highlighted a table detailing the fraction of mortality attributable to Particulate (PM2.5) air pollution for Berkshire authorities, the South East and England.  5.6% of deaths in Wokingham in 2016 had been attributable to PM2.5. The trend in this fraction since 2010 had remained consistent.  The trend in the number of deaths attributable to particulate pollution over the last 5 years had decreased although particulate pollution levels had not decreased.  The total number of deaths from the principal causes such as heart attacks was decreasing.

·         Members were reminded that early preventable deaths referred to preventable deaths in under 75’s.

·         Julie Hotchkiss went on to highlight the mortality rates attributable to major preventable causes in 2015.  In Wokingham the premature mortality attributable to PM2.5 was 11.2 (mortality rate per 100,000) compared to 11.7 for the South East.

·         PM air pollution had an attributable impact on respiratory and cardiovascular disease.  The negative health effects of air pollution and health conditions were discussed.  It was noted that the percentage of attributable risk due to ambient particulate matter pollution for lower respiratory infections in children under 5 was 22%.

·         Members noted inequalities in the health impacts of pollution.  Some groups such as the very young, elderly and those who were pregnant or who suffered from long term conditions, could be more greatly affected.

·         Suzanne McLaughlin updated the Committee on air quality management.  The Local Authority was responsible for determining the causes of pollution within the Borough.  DEFRA had agreed with recently submitted findings.

·         The major source of air pollutants in the Borough was road transport, and in particular the contribution from the M4 had been identified as significant. 

·         The main area of concern was nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) had been declared for exceedances of the annual mean NO2 objective.  These were located in Twyford Crossroads, Wokingham Town Centre and along and 60m either side of the M4 throughout the Borough.  An action plan had been produced to progress Twyford Crossroads and Wokingham Town Centre in particular.

·         An air quality monitoring programme was in place which was reviewed annually.  Nitrogen dioxide monitoring was undertaken at 42 sites.  Known hotspots and locations close to exceeding the Air Quality Objective levels were monitored.

·         Councillor Soane questioned whether the effects of pollution would worsen should smart motorways be introduced as traffic would be brought closer to the roadside.  Suzanne McLaughlin commented that one of the benefits of the scheme was the spreading out of traffic and reduction in the speed limit at times of congestion.

·         With regards to the installation of an additional continuous monitor at Twyford Crossroads, Councillor Jarvis commented that this had been due to be installed for some time, and questioned the reason for the delay.  Suzanne McLaughlin indicated that there had been difficulties relating to the electrical connection which was now resolved.  Nevertheless, additional diffuser tube testing had been carried out. 

·         Councillor Jarvis asked what would be done to help Twyford residents suffering from the effects of pollution, particularly when walking down the High Street.  Suzanne McLaughlin indicated that an action plan had been agreed and that work was being undertaken with colleagues in Public Health and Highways.  It was noted that, due to the age of the properties, the buildings on the High Street were located closer to the road. 

·         Councillor Shepherd–DuBey questioned why the monitor had been removed from Woodward Close in Winnersh.  Suzanne McLaughlin indicated that levels had not been exceeding levels of concern and had in fact been reducing.  Monitoring was particularly focused in areas where there had been exceedances.  It was noted that levels had reduced in Shinfield by the A327 and M4.  It was hoped that in future the Air Quality Management Area could be removed if levels continued to reduce.

·         In response to Members’ questions Suzanne McLaughlin clarified that only five local authorities in the country had been required to introduce clean air zones and that the cost of implementing such a scheme was very high.

·         The monitoring of air quality in Wokingham Town Centre was discussed.  Members asked that they be sent the data from the first quarter of 2018 when it was available. 

·         Councillor Croy suggested that the Committee recommend that the Borough Design Guide include that electric car charging points be installed in new developments.  Councillor Soane indicated that this was not a planning concern.




1)         the update on air quality and health be noted;


2)         Suzanne McLaughlin and Julie Hotchkiss be thanked for their presentation;

3)         the Committee recommend that the Borough Design Guide include that electric car charging points be installed in new developments.

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