Northampton area suffers worst air pollution in the UK during heatwave

Rush hour traffic clogs up Harborough Road daily in Kingsthorpe. On Tuesday the area topped the charts for air pollution in the UK.
Rush hour traffic clogs up Harborough Road daily in Kingsthorpe. On Tuesday the area topped the charts for air pollution in the UK.

An area of Northampton notorious for queuing traffic suffered from the worst air pollution levels in the country during the heatwave this week, according to scientific data.

Air quality sensors in Kingsthorpe showed that at 2pm on Tuesday, as the mercury topped degrees Celsius, ozone levels hit a staggering 171 micrograms per cubic metre - just short of a “dangerous” threshold set by the European Union.

At that time on Tuesday, Kingsthorpe had the worst air quality in the country, higher than anywhere in London.

Had the levels risen slightly to 180 micrograms per cubic metre, Defra would have had to issue an official air quality warning.

Simon Birkett of the Clean Air in London campaign monitors pollution levels around the country regularly.

“This sort of level only happens once or twice a year, it is very rare,” he said.

“People may well have felt tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.

“You could have found yourself in some difficulty.”

Ozone gases are formed when fossil fuel fumes and sun rays combine.

While the levels in Kingthorpe peaked at 171 on Tuesday, they actually fell for the rest of the day, the figures show.

However, the data from 2pm and 3pm was not put on Defra’s website until 5pm that evening, for which Defra has blamed a technical fault

Meanwhile, Northampton Borough Council is preparing a low emissions strategy for the town, which is due to go out to public consultation in two weeks.

Green Party Party member and former town MP Tony Clarke says this is too little too late.

He said: “The council needs to understand it has to start improving the air quality in Northampton, not continue to add to the problem,.

“Most of its actions, in opening up Abington Street, in de-regulating taxis, seem to be taking us in the opposite direction.”

Patrick Cross of the Whitehills and Spring Park Residents Association (WASPRA) says the pollution figures for often-congested Kingsthorpe come as no surprise - and support his group’s call for an orbital road to alleviate traffic in the area.

He said: “Having an orbital road will take that traffic out of town, it will be fast and free flowing, and will reduce the stop-start traffic we see here now.”

Cabinet member for the environment, Councillor Alan Bottwood, said: “To address emissions, the council has developed a draft low emission strategy, which will be going out to consultation.

“This approach integrates the actions to deal with emissions in the co-ordinated manner through planning and transportation, rather than taking isolated actions, which risk displacing the problems to other locations.”