05 Dec

Image Credit: @deliriousme

A new study shown in Cardiff Councils 2022 Annual Progress Report has reported that air quality has vastly improved when compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Air quality figures in the city are monitored on a yearly basis in order to ensure that figures are representative across a full year.

The latest figures show that, on average, vehicle traffic is at 80% of 2019 levels, meaning air pollution levels have reduced by approximately 20% during the same period.

Councillor Dan De'Ath, Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport said: "When comparing the data from 2019 to the data taken in 2021, the air quality levels have improved significantly from all the monitoring stations across the city, which is very encouraging. This points towards clean air improvements that benefit all our residents. 

"The link to less traffic being on our roads is clear and it also backs the argument for changing the way we move around our city. If we want to improve everyone's health, then one of the most effective ways we can do so is by changing the way we travel. Less reliance on the private car and switching to public transport or walking or cycling can make a massive difference to the air we breathe. It's not only helping us to become healthier it's also making an impact on climate change and it's why this council has prioritised cycling, walking and public transport initiatives. In the end we all get to benefit from improved health and to live in a greener, cleaner and more sustainable city." 

Cathedral Road in Cardiff - Credit: Google

During 2020, air quality was seen to rapidly improve. This was known to be associated with the COVID-19 lockdown, which saw traffic use across the city drop rapidly.

In areas of the city where air pollution levels are a concern, Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA's) are introduced. This requires Cardiff Council to set out action plans on how to reduce the levels of pollution. A city-wide action plan was produced in 2018 as part of the Council's Clean Air Plan. 

The legal limit for NOin Wales is currently an annual average concentration of 40 µg/m3. At the moment, AMQA's are positioned four different locations around the capital city. These are the City Centre, Stephenson Court, Ely Bridge and Llandaff. Results from all of those are as follows: 

City Centre: The levels of NO2in the city centre have reduced significantly since 2019 but increased slightly compared with 2020 (when Castle Street was closed to traffic during the COVID recovery.) In 2019, data shows that the NO2level was 44µg/m3from two separate monitoring stations, which reduced to 23 µg/m3and 26µg/m3respectively in 2020. In 2021, data from the same monitoring stations showed an annual average of 26 µg/m3

Stephenson Court: All three monitoring stations in this AQMA show compliance with the NO2requirements, with the annual average remaining under 30µg/m3from all three sites. The data in 2019 shows the average NO2reading at 35.7 µg/m3, reducing to 28.4µg/m3in 2020 and increasing slightly to 29.3 µg/m3in 2021.

Ely Bridge: Three monitoring sites are in place at this location and all three sites are compliant with the requirements for NO2. In 2019, the annual average from this location was 38.6µg/m3, reducing to 30.4µg/m3in 2020 and increasing slightly to 31.7 µg/m3in 2021.

Llandaff: All monitoring stations show that the limit vales for NO2are compliant with the limit value set out in legislation. In 2019 the annual average showed the level at 41.3µg/m3, reducing to 33 µg/m3in 2020, but increasing to 37 µg/m3in 2021. The increase in the level from 2020 to 2021 reflects the increase in traffic volumes using this route, which is one of the main arterial routes into the city. The council have said that they will ensure focused monitoring Llandaff is maintained and enhanced next year (2023). 

Automated monitoring equipment at four locations across Cardiff. These are located at Fredrick Street (City Centre), Richards Terrace (Newport Road), Castle Street and Lakeside Primary School. All of the readings from these monitoring stations during 2021 are compliant with the legislation. 

A further seven new real time monitoring stations have also been installed at Westgate Street, Lower Cathedral Road, Tudor Street, North Road, Penarth Road, Lansdowne Road and within the Llandaff AQMA. Every piece of data collected from these locations during the 2021 period are compliant with the legislation.

Diffusion Tube data is also collected from over 100 sites across the Cardiff area. This includes monitoring outside a number of primary and secondary schools. Again, all data from these monitoring stations meet statutory requirements.

Aerial view of Cardiff - Credit: Unsplash

The Local Air Quality Annual Report will be examined by the Environmental Scrutiny Committee at 4.30pm on December 8th. Papers related to this meeting can be viewed HERE. A live stream of the meeting will be free to watch HERE.

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