Pollution levels at Knaresborough’s busiest junction now below legal limits after road revamp
Pollution levels at Knaresborough's busiest junction have fallen below legal limits for the first time since a major road revamp was carried out.
An annual report from Harrogate Borough Council shows Bond End was no longer in breach of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits during 2020 after traffic lights were removed to make way for two mini roundabouts two years earlier.
The junction - which had exceeded limits ever since being identified as a problem area more than ten years ago - still has the highest pollution levels in the district, although it has fallen from 40.47 micrograms of annual nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air in 2019 to 33.8 last year.
The legal limit is 40.
A council spokesperson said: “It’s positive that that annual reading for nitrogen dioxide is below the EU legal limit.
“We’re keen to remain at this level, or better still continue to improve, and have a number of actions as part of our air quality action plan.
“These include working with HGV, bus and taxi providers to improve the quality of their fleet, our ultra-low emission vehicle strategy as well as air quality campaigns and education.”
After years of discussions and delays, North Yorkshire County Council completed the upgrades to Bond End in November 2018.
It prompted a mixed reaction from residents who questioned whether the road changes had made any difference to traffic flow and pollution, but the newly published figures suggest they could be having a positive impact.
There is, however, the question of what impact the coronavirus lockdowns have had on the figures.
Recordings from March and April, when the first lockdown came into force, were not included in the report and it is thought fewer car journeys during the rest of the year were enough to keep overall pollution levels low.
Aside from Bond End, there were no other areas in the district which were in breach of legal limits.
Most areas were improving before the pandemic began and Knaresborough bus station was the only one to record an increase, although this was only slightly by one microgram of annual nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air.
Air pollution is associated with a number of adverse health impacts and particularly affects the most vulnerable in society; children, older people and those with heart and lung conditions.
The borough council has identified four locations as Air Quality Management Areas where people are most at risk from these health impacts, including Bond End and York Place in Knaresborough, High Skellgate in Ripon, and Wetherby Road in Harrogate.
A council spokesperson added: “We are optimistic that the improvements in air quality will continue post Covid as many people have embraced a hybrid model of working at home and in the office.
“We will continue to monitor air quality and tailor our action plan accordingly.”
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter