South East Wales

Hafodyrynys homes demolition plan to cut air pollution

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Media captionMartin Brown says someone could be killed trying to cross the road

Homes could be demolished or a bypass built under plans to improve air quality in an area with one of the UK's highest pollution levels.

In 2015 and 2016, levels of nitrogen dioxide on the A472 at Hafodyrynys, Caerphilly county, were higher than anywhere but central London.

The level recorded far exceeds World Health Organisation guidelines on acceptable levels.

Caerphilly council is consulting on a plan to improve air quality.

Its Draft Air Quality Action Plan contains outline proposals aimed at reducing nitrogen dioxide pollution in the area.

They include:

  • Compulsory purchasing homes on Woodside Terrace to demolish them to prevent pollution getting boxed in by allowing greater air dispersion
  • Building a one-way bypass to re-route southbound A467 vehicles travelling towards the A467 to reduce 12.5% of traffic
  • A two-way bypass re-routing southbound and eastbound A467 motorists to cut 25% of traffic
  • Reducing the speed limit and/or introducing a speed camera to encourage the smooth flow of traffic
  • Encouraging more efficient travel within the area, working with businesses, schools and the council
  • Carrying out air quality impact assessments for any future developments likely to increase traffic

Other options being looked at include re-routing HGV traffic away from the area and encouraging bus firms to use low-emission vehicles.

Signs asking motorists to switch off their engines at traffic lights could also be put up and the council could also promote the use of public transport in a bid to cut the number of vehicles on the road.

Resident Martin Brown, who bought his house 48 years ago, said traffic congestion was "unbearable" and it was "almost impossible to cross the road".

"It is traffic all day, every day. The road is like a race track and someone is going to be killed crossing it," he said.

He believes a compulsory purchase of homes is the only way residents will be able to leave as most who have tried to sell up have had little interest.

Neighbour Barbara Smith added: "I watch people take their lives into their hands trying to cross the road. The noise and pollution is unbelievable."

Image caption The area has been an Air Quality Management Area since 2013

Joseph Carter, head of British Lung Foundation, Wales, said air pollution can have "serious health impacts", with children, the elderly and pregnant women "particularly vulnerable".

"If a child breathes in high levels of air pollution over a long period of time, they are at risk of their lungs not growing properly," he said.

Mr Carter said the final decision on what happens at Hafodyrynys, whether this be compulsory purchase or not - "has to be decided by residents".

He also called on other local authorities to "take a look at what is going on in Caerphilly" and "learn from it" by carrying out improved pollution monitoring.

The latest proposals come after an air pollution monitoring box on the A472 near Swffryd recorded levels higher than anywhere else but Marylebone Road in London.

About 21,400 vehicles use the road every day, including a high number of lorries travelling between Crumlin and Pontypool, while motorists coming from the M4 and Heads of the Valleys road also use it.

As a result of pollution caused by traffic congestion, the area was declared an Air Quality Management Area in November 2013.

Councillor Eluned Stenner, cabinet member for the environment and public protection, said the consultation was a chance for people to have their say.

She said: "With the support of the local community and our partners, we remain fully committed to doing all we can to help improve the air quality situation, and I'd encourage our residents to contribute their views on the contents of this draft action plan by taking part in this consultation."

  • Week In Week Out: The Invisible Killer on our Streets which aired on 7 March is available to watch on iPlayer.

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