Issue - meetings
Annual Air Quality Status Report
Cllr Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport & Zero Carbon Oxford; Mish Tullar, Head of Corporate Strategy; Amanda Ford, Environmental Quality Team Manager; and Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer have been invited to attend for this item.
Consideration by the Committee in October 2020 of the previous annual report did not conclude with any recommendations to Cabinet.
Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer, introduced the annual report which fulfilled a statutory duty and provided an overview of all monitoring data for the year and an update in relation to the air quality actions set out in the Council’s Air Quality Action Plan 2021-2025.
The previous year had been atypical given the consequences of Covid and significantly reduced traffic volumes. As a result of this, for the first time since air quality monitoring started in Oxford, there were significant reductions in air pollution levels and the city had been compliant with all short and long term UK air quality objectives. The highest annual mean however continued to be in St Clements.
The Committee noted the importance of being able to monitor the consequences of the introduction of LTNs on air pollution, particularly where traffic had been displaced as a result. The Air Quality Officer said that working in partnership with the County Council, air quality was being measured at an additional 16 sites to capture the consequences of LTNs. In discussion it was noted that while measuring values within an LTN was likely to be directly attributable to the LTN, measuring those outside it might well be the consequence of other unrelated traffic flow considerations. A detailed briefing on air quality for all Councillors would take place the following day.
Live, accessible, reporting a of air quality was agreed to be of potentially great benefit for the city’s residents and might usefully extend to the provision of real time alerts. It was a source of regret that there were only three live monitoring points in the city. The Air Quality Officer confirmed the intention to make the live data available in due course - as part of the development of a new air quality website for Oxfordshire, a joint project that is being delivered by Oxford City Council together with the other District Councilss. He noted however that the number of live reporting instruments was constrained by their considerable expense and other costs associated with their use. While a considerable number of air monitoring devices were commercially available, not all were reliable. Monitoring for the purposes of the statutory return necessitated the consistent use of devices of a recognised quality to ensure valid and comparable data over time. Data from the city’s 71 diffusion tubes -provide monthly means, which are then aggregated into an annual mean for comparison against the NO2 air quality mean limit value.
Concerns about the use of wood burning stoves would be addressed by information programmes to draw attention to the impact of their use and advice about best practice in relation to their use.
Given the role of the County Council as highways authority, the importance of a close working relationship with it was recognised and the Air Quality Officer confirmed that there was close co-operation in relation to analysing the consequences of LTNs. He noted that at least 9 months of continuous monitoring were needed before any firm conclusions could be drawn. The ... view the full minutes text for item 53
The Annual Air Quality Status Report is now a standing item on the Committee’s agenda. This is an opportunity for the Committee to note the report for 2019 and comment if it wishes.
Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Green Transport and Zero Carbon Oxford will be available to present the report, and Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer, will be able to answer technical questions.
Cllr Tom Hayes gave a brief introduction to the report. After a significant period of improving air quality, the rate of improvement was plateauing, contributed to, in part, by 3 months in 2019 of extreme weather conditions across the city. This underlined the importance of the steps proposed in the Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) which had been the subject of discussion at the previous meeting of the Committee and, in particular, the establishment of a target for air quality improvement which was more stringent than that required by Government. A target which would be contributed by the measures set out in the AQAP such as the introduction of a Zero Emissions Zone; the electrification of the Council’s vehicle fleet; encouraging the local bus and taxi trade to move towards the increasing use of electric vehicles etc.
In response to a question Cllr Hayes agreed that the previous recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee in relation to the AQAP would be worked into future monitoring reports.
The Committee enquired about the contribution of weather conditions to the decline in air quality cited in the report, asking if it was likely to be a deep seated and ongoing issue as a consequence of climate change. Pedro Abreu, Air Quality Officer, confirmed that climate change was producing more extreme weather conditions than hitherto and so it was likely to continue to be a factor from time to time. DEFRA had independently confirmed that the conclusions of the report were properly evidenced.
In subsequent discussion it the Committee agreed that there would be no real merit in monitoring and recording detailed weather conditions to be read in parallel with the air quality data not least because of the natural variation of conditions which were sometimes beneficial and sometimes detrimental to air quality. Notwithstanding the Committee’s view Cllr Hayes argued that there was still merit in providing relevant contextual factors when producing a public report.
The report’s reference to the Energy Superhub was thought to be in need of some clarification in relation to whether or not its spare capacity was to be fed back into the grid or used for high speed charging stations. It was agreed that clarification would be provided to the Committee on this matter.
Cllr Hayes said it was difficult, at this point, to quantify the potential beneficial impact of the Superhub on air quality. This was because it was not known to what extent the “private wire” capability would be taken up by businesses, fleet operators et al. The Council would encourage all those who might benefit to do so with a particular focus on the bus companies. The introduction of a significant number of electric vehicle charging points should increase the number of electric vehicles in the City.
In discussion about the possible connection between poor air quality and Covid-19 Cllr Hayes said an emerging research base was looking at the links between Covid-19 and air quality. It was however prudent to wait until there could be complete ... view the full minutes text for item 39