Revealed: Kirklees air quality survey results

A car plumes smoke for its exhaust
A car plumes smoke for its exhaust

Kirklees Council has forked out £50,000 on a feasibility study into poor air quality.

And the result has told them what everyone already knows: nitrogen dioxide levels go down if traffic keeps moving.

The council spent the money on a trial that involved monitoring emissions from vehicles as they passed through a junction on the A62 Leeds Road in Huddersfield and optimising traffic signals in response.

The study, run in partnership between the council and Dutch mobility consultants Dynniq, captured data that calculated emissions and which ensured larger and more polluting vehicles were able to pass without the stop-start conditions that cause air pollution.

A report presented at a recent meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority trumpeted the success of the experiment, describing it as “a cost-effective approach to traffic control achieved by reducing stop-start traffic conditions in air quality hotspots.”

The results – a 31% saving in nitrogen oxides – are now being shared with other partner councils.

But the wisdom behind the experiment has been questioned by Mirfield councillor and keen cyclist Martyn Bolt who ridiculed Kirklees Council for spending money on a project where the outcome is already clear.

“The upshot of the survey is that if traffic lights don’t hold up traffic then air quality is better,” he said. “For £50,000 I think I could have told them that.

“It begs the question why Kirklees is narrowing roads and putting up traffic signals when they’ve had to pay out £50,000 to be told it’s harmful to health not to maintain travel times.”

Clr Bolt highlighted roadworks on the A62 near Cooper Bridge and suggested that they contradicted the previous study.

He added: “Islands are being put in the road that prevent motorists overtaking. Has this been run through someone to find out what the impact on air quality is?”

The Kirklees study follows a case at the High Court in February brought by Client Earth against the government’s 2017 plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

The court ruled that 33 authorities – including all those in West Yorkshire – must demonstrate whether any additional measures would help reduce nitrogen dioxide levels on certain road lengths to within legal limits in “the shortest time possible.”

The study work must be submitted to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) by July 31.