Fears for Knaresborough residents health following air pollution concerns

HBC Cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, Rebecca Burnett said the whole issue came down to tackling the volume of traffic.
HBC Cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, Rebecca Burnett said the whole issue came down to tackling the volume of traffic.

Concern has been raised for the residents of York Place in Knaresborough after strict conditions around air quality issues have been attached to a planning application on the street.

Permission to turn a commercial property on the road into a residential dwelling has been granted on the condition that an air ventilation system is fitted and ground floor windows are permanently sealed.

But for Knaresborough Town Councillor, James Monaghan (Lib Dem), the decision proves that the area has dangerous levels of air pollution - something he has been fighting to improve for some time.

Coun Monaghan said: “If Harrogate Borough Council are saying that it is not safe to live in a new home here without air filtration what does that mean for those of us who have been living here for years unaware that their health was at risk.

“If they knew air quality was so dangerous, they should have written to residents to advise what to do to protect their health.”

The decision follows previous criticism levelled at Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) for not declaring an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) for York Place.

The property concerned in the recent application is the same property where the pollution measuring device for York Place is located.

The council has an obligation to alert DEFRA and set up an AQMA when levels of polluting chemicals reach 40 micrograms per cubic metre in a given residential area.

The 2015 Harrogate District air quality report found this level had already been exceeded on York Place but argued because the measuring device was not on a residential property an AQMA was not needed.

But when the property owner first applied for the concerned planning permission, HBC’s environmental officer objected on the grounds it would mean declaring an AQMA.

Coun Monaghan said: “This proves what we have been saying all along - air quality levels on York Place are unsafe and Harrogate Borough Council should take action. They dodged their responsibility on a technicality that they can no longer hide behind.”

Now HBC will be forced to declare an AQMA for York Place, alongside the one that currently stands at Bond End, and take appropriate action to deal with the air quality issues.

But HBC Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, Rebecca Burnett, argued that the real solution will come from a change made by residents and commuters.

She said: “We do have an action plan which we are renewing in light of the two new areas. But the council is not responsible for creating poor air quality and the whole argument needs to come back on what creates it, which is the amount of traffic we have and people driving through the areas where the problems are.

“Getting people out of the car has got to be the only resolution. ”