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Breath of fresh air in Bradford on Avon as levels of particulate matter fall in the town

The air quality in Bradford on Avon has improved, as levels of particulate matter have fallen below the objective set in air quality law that originally led to the town's Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) order, and as a result this part of the order has now been lifted.

Published 4 March 2021
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The air quality in Bradford on Avon has improved, as levels of particulate matter have fallen below the objective set in air quality law that originally led to the town's Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) order, and as a result this part of the order has now been lifted.

The improvement has come about over many years and as such it is not a direct result of the reduction in traffic caused by recent COVID-19 lockdowns or the temporary one-way system installed in the town in 2020 to help aid social distancing - although both of these factors have also added to the improvement in air quality in the town.

Wiltshire Council has been monitoring the air quality on Masons Lane in Bradford on Avon for  a decade, and installed Defra-approved high precision real-time monitoring equipment at its current location in 2013. It's here that the levels of particulate matter (PM) have fallen significantly over the past five years, and crucially well below the levels set out in air quality law, in line with other monitoring locations in the town.

PM is a mixture of very small solid particles found in the air, with traffic pollution being a major cause. At high levels, PM can get into the lungs and cause health problems in people, particularly those with some underlying conditions. As required by law, the council monitors for PM10, which includes particles with diameters that are 10 micrometres and smaller.

At Masons Lane, the AQMA order required PM10 to be below 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air; and since 2015 it has been below 30, falling to below 25 in the latest figures for 2019. The 2020 figures are currently being ratified, but are expected to show that PM10 has fallen again from 2019's levels.

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: "This is fantastic news for Bradford on Avon and underlines our commitment to improving air quality throughout Wiltshire.

"Of course, we're fortunate that most of the county enjoys good air quality, but there are a few hotspots, and Mason's Lane in Bradford on Avon is one of them.

"The PM10 levels at this location have been below 40 for several years now, but trends have to be measured over five years, which is why we can only now lift this part of the AQMA order, which has been in place since 2001. The main reason for this is that people are now driving vehicles with lower emissions.

"The recent lockdowns and the current one-way system may have also had a positive effect on air quality in the town, as fewer cars are queuing. However, we are still monitoring this and will be able to provide independently ratified data imminently.

"Unfortunately, the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) remain higher than levels required by the AQMA order at two locations in the town, so there is more work to do on this front and this part of the AQMA order remains in place. But as more people use electric vehicles and change their habits, levels of NO2 will also come down.

"We're taking all steps available to us improve air quality throughout Wiltshire."

Published 4 March 2021
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