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Town's air quality improves after failing to meet national target

PUBLISHED: 10:11 07 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:11 07 August 2019

Work has been done to improve air quality in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Ian Burt

Work has been done to improve air quality in Swaffham town centre. Picture: Ian Burt

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Air quality in a town which failed to meet national targets has been "significantly improved", according to the latest readings.

A small area in Swaffham town centre was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2017. Picture: GoogleA small area in Swaffham town centre was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2017. Picture: Google

A small area in Swaffham town centre was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) by Breckland Council in May 2017, as it had more than 40mcg (micrograms) of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre.

But new readings taken at the junction adjoining the A1065 with Station Square show levels during 2018 fell to average of 30mcg, a drop of more than 25pc.

The decline comes after Breckland Council, alongside partners including Norfolk County Council and Swaffham Town Council, introduced a host of measures aimed at improving the quality of air.

Changing the traffic flow at the junction, as well as making parking improvements and encouraging residents to take action, are among the steps taken over the last two years.

Alison Webb, executive member for housing, health and environment at Breckland, said: "The actions taken to date appear to have made a big difference and, with the assistance of our partner organisations, we will be seeking to build on this good progress going forward.

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"Several large housing planning applications in Swaffham have recently been reviewed and revised requirements relating to air quality have been requested from developers.

"Rapid charging points in the council-owned Pedlars Car Park will soon make it easier for people to use electric cars in the town.

"We will keep up this momentum."

Long-term exposure to high levels of nitrogen dioxide has been found to cause serious respiratory problems and can have significant impacts on those suffering with asthma.

To combat the threat, Breckland worked with YouTubers to create short films focussing on air quality issues including encouraging people to walk or cycle and to avoid idling their car engines.

Further steps, such as changing approved routes for heavier vehicles, introducing pedestrianised zones and adding more greenery to the town, are now being considered.

"It's important to emphasise that it's not job done yet," added Ed Colman, district and county councillor for Swaffham. "We are happy with the results but we have a duty to monitor the junction to ensure levels don't creep up again.

"Only then will we look at more major things such as pedestrianisation."

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