A report has revealed air pollution is increasing across the district, and has left a wake of criticism from Knaresborough residents and councillors that not enough is being done by the authorities in charge.
Last month, the Knaresborough Post reported that a second ‘Air Quality Management Area’ (AQMA) would have to be declared at York Place, joining the existing one at Bond End.
Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) and North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) have a joint responsibility to draw up and undertake action plans for AQMAs where pollution is a real threat to residents’ health.
But while a Bond End Steering Group is in place to draw up solutions, the group hasn’t met since February, despite Knaresborough Town Councillors pushing for another meeting date.
Now, Bill Hoult , County Councillor for Knaresborough has written to NYCC calling for a meeting date to be established.
He said: “I have written and said we need to have a meeting and discuss what we are doing with Bond End. The problem is increasing almost everywhere and we need to sit down and have a meeting.
“I’m getting increasingly concerned and we ought to be looking at it to see if there is anything we can do.”
When it was revealed that a new AQMA would have to be declared to DEFRA, HBC Cabinet Member for sustainable transport, Rebecca Burnett told the ‘Post that “getting people out of the cars can be the only resolution”.
But Coun Burnett’s comments have been met with criticism from residents, who pointed out that various new developments across the town will see many more cars passing through and adding to air pollution.
Malcolm Woodword Beech Grove resident said: “There is planning permission for 600 new houses at Manse Farm, 164 are currently being built at The Pastures on Boroughbridge Road, an appeal is pending for a further 74 dwellings off Orchard Close and an application is expected for 81 houses off Bar Lane.
“These developments, together with various small ‘windfall’ builds throughout the town could add up to a further 1,000 new homes and, seeing that many households now have two cars, there is a possibility of another 2,000 cars passing through Knaresborough and a lot more people to be persuaded that ‘getting people out of the car has got to be the only resolution’ to quote Councillor Burnett.”
Coun Hoult also criticised Coun Burnett’s comment, claiming they could be ‘technically incorrect’.
He said: “If people get out their cars and walked or cycled they are the ones that are going to be more at risk in these areas because they are unprotected rather than the people sat in their cars.”
But Coun Burnett remained committed to her previous comments and argued “that wouldn’t be the case if more people did it”.
The cabinet member also addressed the concerns around the planning applications and developments across the town.
She said: “In the current climate of planning policies it doesn’t seem to me that bad air pollution anywhere can stop new developments because we need to build new homes and that’s what we are being asked to do by government, and inevitably some of those houses will be in Knaresborough and we can’t get away from that in the same way people say getting out the cars is an unrealistic solution.
“I appreciate that some of the comments I have made about people taking more responsibility sound a little bit harsh but I think long term if we actually do want to resolve the problem it’s not the easiest thing but its not about taking an easy option it’s about solving the problem.”
Residents have also complained that the letters which were sent out by HBC to update residents living in the town’s AQMA’s are no longer being received.
But Coun Burnett said the letters have not stopped and that until recently there has not been any new information to report to residents.
She said: “We have never stopped the letters going out to people to update them on the situation and one will be going out in the next few months once the action plan has been drawn up.
“The council is not there to give help and advice on what people should and shouldn’t do, what it does do is advise them on what the council is doing to address the air pollution.”