August 9, 2008
Ban on Traffic Fails to Improve Air Pollution
By David James
IT has infuriated traders, been welcomed by shoppers and criticised by drivers, but one thing has not been affected by St Mary Street's part-pedestrianisation - pollution.
The city's annual air-quality report has revealed banning private cars from the busy shopping street has made no difference to its long-standing nitrogen dioxide problem.
Reducing pollution was cited last year as one of the key reasons for making the traffic changes as part of a bid to make the area more attractive to shoppers.
Yet, in his report to the city's public protection committee, chief environment officer Sean Hannaby wrote: "The key point to note is that during 2007 there was no measured improvement in air quality when compared to previous years despite High Street and St Mary Street being closed to private vehicles in August 2007."
In common with many central urban areas in British cities, readings for the toxic gas, which is pumped from car exhausts, are consistently above health guidelines around High Street and St Mary Street.
While experts do not advise long-term exposure to levels above 40 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide, the city council's monitoring equipment records averages 70mg in High Street, 58 in St Mary Street and 65 outside the Sandring-ham Hotel midway between the two measuring spots.
It is the only area of the city designated as an area of concern for monitoring in Cardiff apart from the Ely bridge, between Canton and Ely, where averages of 59mg were recorded in the 2007 statistics.
In his report, Mr Hannaby notes that the St Mary Street figures have been recorded during the St David's 2 building disruption and it is too soon to make firm conclusions that the experiment has failed to dent pollution.
But he said: "It is clear that these changes will not be sufficient to enable the (40mg) target to be met.
"The council is considering the matter further to see if additional cuts in road traffic along the link are possible.
"These considerations will include the viability of full pedestrianisation and studies are being undertaken to assess whether the surrounding road network has the capacity to absorb additional traffic."
He added: "The council is committed to improving the air quality and is clearly working towards national objectives both in compliance with its statutory duties and from a desire to reduce the adverse health impacts of poor air quality on local residents."
At the Ely Bridge, an action plan is also being developed.
Although the city's report concluded there were no problems with pollutants like carbon monoxide, benzene and sulphur dioxide in Cardiff, further monitoring is to be carried out at areas which have indicated raised levels of nitrogen dioxide, including Fairoak Road, Roath, and Stephenson Court, Newport Road.
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