Pollution at bottleneck junction in Knaresborough is still worst in the district despite major road revamp

Pollution levels at Knaresborough's busiest junction remain the highest in the district despite a major road revamp to address air quality concerns, it has been revealed.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:46 pm

An annual report from Harrogate Borough Council shows Bond End is still the worst area for pollution caused by harmful exhaust fumes and has continued to exceed international pollution limits.

Figures show nitrogen oxide gases at the bottleneck junction decreased by 11 per cent after traffic lights were removed to make way for two mini roundabouts in 2018, but concerns remain that more needs to be done to cut pollution levels even further.

Knaresborough town councillor Hannah Gostlow described the findings as "really disappointing".

Bond End recorded the highest levels of pollution in the district last year.

She said the junction upgrades have improved traffic flow but added more should be done to discourage motorists from driving through the town centre.

Coun Gostlow said: "I would have liked to see other green transport initiatives implemented at the same time as the work to the Bond End junction to help reduce the number of cars going through this Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA), including the promotion of the two main car parks, and better provision for cyclists and pedestrians."

Bond End recorded the highest levels of pollution last year with 40.47 micrograms of annual nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air (µg/m3).

The World Health Orgnisation's (WHO) clean air target is 40.

North Yorkshire County Council started looking at the busy junction in 2010 when it was first found to be falling short of pollution targets.

After eight years of discussions, works to remove traffic lights and replace them with two mini roundabouts were completed in November 2018.

It prompted mixed reaction from residents over whether it had made any difference - but town councillor David Goode says more time and junction upgrades elsewhere are needed to properly assess the situation.

"Everybody expected the figures to come down somewhat and I think it might be a little bit early to get a true picture", he said.

"Bond End was always the first phase of a number of projects that needed to take place. We have got the York Place improvements and the Chain Lane and Wetherby Road traffic lights works still to come.

"Until those are completed we won't truly see how traffic levels will shape up, but the opposite side of the story is that we have got planning permission for 2,000 homes and that is bound to bring new pressures to the town."

Figures in the council's report show Knaresborough features five times in the top 10 worst areas for pollution.

These include Bond End, York Place, High Street, Market Place and Vale Court.

It does, however, show a generally improving trend with pollution levels decreasing at all of the locations.

Across the district, only three out of 50 monitoring locations saw nitrogen oxide gases increase during the review period.

Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts. It particularly affects the most vulnerable in society; children and older people and those with heart and lung conditions.

A measure which compares pollution levels and death rates gives a value of 3.8 per cent for the Harrogate district - the third lowest in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

For comparison, the fraction of mortality attributable to particulate air pollution ranges from 2.4 per cent in the Isles of Scilly to 7.1 per cent in London.

Harrogate Borough Council said it has no plans to revoke any of its four AQMAs, even though the pollution levels are decreasing year-on-year.

The report said: "HBC plans to continue working within departments within HBC and NYCC, including public health, to ensure the delivery of action within the action plan, and to develop further actions in future."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter