The Conservative Group’s request to call-in the Labour Cabinet’s decision to dismiss the recommendation from Place Scrutiny to declare an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in West Vale, has been blocked. The Conservative Group do not agree with the decision and will be taking further action, alongside residents and campaigners.
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A petition was submitted on behalf of local residents to Calderdale Council by the former Conservative councillor for Greetland and Stainland, Jacob Cook, requesting that an AQMA is set up in West Vale. The area is notorious for congestion due to the traffic lights in the village which cause the area to be gridlocked regularly. The pollution from vehicles is potentially impacting upon the health of residents, particularly pupils at West Vale Primary School and residents at a local care home. The pollutants from vehicles are linked to respiratory diseases, such as asthma, and long-term exposure can lead to a reduction in life expectancy.
The petition was referred to the Place Scrutiny Committee which recommended to the Labour-run Cabinet that the Council should declare an AQMA. Shockingly, at the Cabinet meeting on Monday 6 June, despite desperate pleas from residents and community campaigners, the Labour politicians refused granting AQMA status. Their reasons were vague and lacking sufficient evidence:
- A claim was made that car journeys are decreasing due to home working and an uptake in alternative modes of transport
- Their evidence was primarily based upon pollutant monitoring from 2020, during the height of Covid-19 restrictions
- There was no point in declaring an AQMA as they are not a ‘panacea’
- That Calderdale could not implement an AQMA as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) would not allow it
In the view of the Conservative Group, these statements are inaccurate, and misleading, and the evidence provided in the Cabinet report was lacking in sections, and in other areas it was absent.
West Vale has been teetering on the edge of exceeding national air quality objectives for years, as stated within the Cabinet report. According to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority in 2021, there was only negligible evidence to suggest that private car usage has decreased since the pandemic. And it is not down to DEFRA to implement AQMA’s, it is at the discretion of Calderdale Council, which has a duty to establish an AQMA if a locality can be forecast to fail national air quality objectives in the next few years.
“This decision is incomprehensible and morally reprehensible” said Councillor Steven Leigh, Leader of the Conservative Group, adding, “worst of all, it appears to be entirely politically motivated. No evidence has been provided to support their claims that air quality is improving in West Vale, and they do not want their evidence to be put before a Scrutiny Committee. I believe that the decision not to declare an AQMA is because of a perceived risk to Labour’s Local Plan, which would see over 600 additional homes built in the local area. How can Labour seriously claim that the number of vehicles would not increase, at the expense of air quality? Labour are simply playing politics with public health.”
“Our community has been left horrified by the Cabinet’s decision” said Lyndsey Ashton, a community campaigner from Greetland, who went onto say, “we believe that pollutants are exceeding the legal limit, and that Calderdale’s inaccurate data collection is under recording the actual levels of air pollution. This could be having a devastating effect on primary school children and care home residents in West Vale. We’re worried that the Cabinet are trying to sweep poor air quality under the carpet because, if acknowledged, it would threaten their plans for mass housebuilding in the area under their highly contentious Local Plan.”
The Conservative Group is working with local community groups to challenge the decision and will continue to campaign for an AQMA in West Vale.
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