The Environment Act 1995 requires the Council to review and assess the air quality in Gateshead, looking specifically at seven air pollutants that are detailed in the Government's National Air Quality Strategy
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Fine Particles (PM10)
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
- 1,3 Butadiene
The assessments form part of the Local Air Quality Management Guidance which works towards achieving National Air Quality objectives.
The levels of these pollutants must be assessed to determine whether they exceed specific Air Quality Objectives (AQO). Where pollutant levels exceed the AQO the Council is required to take steps to improve air quality by declaring an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and producing an Air Quality Action Plan.
Reviews and assessments
The Council continuously carries out reviews and assessments of the air quality in Gateshead and reports its findings annually to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The Council operates an extensive air quality monitoring network using diffusion tubes for NO2, and real time monitoring equipment for NO2 and PM2.5. Monitoring takes place in locations where there is a risk of the air quality standards being exceeded and where there is relevant exposure in the form of housing, offices, schools or hospitals.
The Council switched from monitoring PM10 to PM2.5 at two locations in 2011 in response to the growing body of evidence on the impact that PM2.5 has on health and particularly cardiovascular disease.
The data from monitoring results can be found in all of the above mentioned reports, and you can view real time monitoring data from Gateshead at www.airqualityengland.co.uk
Annual status reports
Updating and Screening Assessments
Air Quality Management Area - Town Centre
Reviews and assessments in Gateshead in 2003 and 2006 showed that six of the pollutants were well within the air quality objectives in Gateshead. However, in Gateshead town centre the mean air quality for Nitrogen Dioxide was exceeded.
Nitrogen dioxide is caused almost entirely by road traffic, over which the Council has limited direct control. This resulted in the Council declaring an AQMA in the town centre in April 2005. The AQMA was extended in 2008 to include more of the A167 flyover and some of Durham Road.
Anwas produced in 2007 to address air quality in the town centre, on which the residents within the AQMA were consulted. The action plan described the processes that are in place and set out the measures that were considered at the time necessary to deliver improvements in air quality. As road transport has the greatest impact on air quality in Gateshead, the action plan has now been incorporated into the Tyne & Wear Local Transport Plan.
In 2011 and 2012 the levels of NO2 in Gateshead town centre fell slightly below the annual mean AQO but not significantly. Significant improvements in air quality would be required before consideration is given to revocation of the AQMA.
Air Quality Management Area - Portobello
The Updating and Screening Assessment Report 2006 identified that the annual mean air quality standard for NO2 was also being exceeded in Portobello. This was again due to traffic pollution.
A further detailed assessment was carried out to confirm these figures and an AQMA was declared in 2008. This AQMA was revoked in 2012 as the annual mean for NO2 had fallen well below the air quality standard for three consecutive years largely because of a reduction in traffic in the area.
Improving air quality in Gateshead
Air quality is embedded in a number of Council plans and strategies with the aim of reducing poor air quality. For example transport policies seek to reduce levels of through traffic, promote walking, cycling and public transport use. Planning policies seek to ensure that new development or infrastructure proposals consider the impact on air quality and mitigate any negative affects.
Simple steps that you can take to improve air quality in Gateshead:
- When driving, turn off your engine when your vehicle is stationary.
- Avoid or minimise warming up the car prior to starting you journey.
- Walk instead of taking the car for short errands
- Take public transport or cycle on longer journeys