Victory for campaign as council is made to publish air pollution figures around Northampton's bus station

Air quality figures for the roads around Northampton's bus station will now have to be published after an intervention from the Information Commisioner.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 6:13 pm
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 5:03 pm
The borough council has been made to publish air quality figures for the Drapery after a campaign by the Liberal Democrat group.

In February, a Freedom of Information (FOI) report seen by this paper revealed the borough council mysteriously stopped taking air quality readings around the North Gate Bus Station in early 2016 - despite fears of heavy pollution there.

The Liberal Democrat group at the authority has since been calling on the borough to publish the air quality readings every six months to reassure the public action was being taken about the fumes.

Up until now that has not happened, even though the council itself admitted air quality standards were "being breached" there in August 2017.

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Last year a Chron investigation found air pollution figures to be twice the legal limit. The council, however says raw data needs to undergo a series of adjustments outlined by DEFRA to make any comparison fair.

The Chronicle & Echo's own diffuser tube tests found pollution levels around the Drapery to be just below twice the legal limit last November.

Having taken their fight to the Information Commissioner, the Lib Dems have scored a victory.

On Monday, the political group received an e-mail from the commissioner’s office stating: “The council has confirmed that it will publish the raw data you requested on its website on 1 August.”

Liberal Democrat environmental spokesman Martin Sawyer, said: “We are pleased that this information will now be available to the public”.

The Liberal Democrats wrote to the Information Commisioners' office to get the results published.

“Other councils already put such data on their websites and we will now be taking a close look at what the figures show.

"Everyone using the Drapery and North Gate bus station knows there is a problem – now we will be able to quantify how bad things are”.

However, the borough council says the raw data figures can be misleading. All raw air pollution figures undergo a complex adjustment as outlined by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) before being published in official council reports.

The adjustments take into account the testing tube's distance from the road, altitude above sea level and a multitude of other factors.

Councillor Mike Hallam, the council's cabinet member for the environment, said: “We have always been clear that raw data does not give a true reflection of air quality.

“The standard methods used to gather that data are subject to potential inaccuracy caused by a number of factors outlined by DEFRA.

“Each year, DEFRA requires that we adjust our raw data up or down based on these factors, which include comparison with more accurate and significantly more expensive methods of monitoring.”

But leader of the Lib Dem group, Sally Beardsworth,, said the publication of the figures today ends years of "secrecy" by the current administration.

She said; “I have spoken to shopkeepers in the Drapery and they have told me that their staff and their customers can smell the pollution and feel it in their throats.”