Air pollution won’t stop new developments, claims councillor

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A SENIOR councillor has admitted concerns about increased air pollution will do little to stop housing developments in one of Yorkshire’s most desirable districts as pressure for new homes forces planning policy.

A new report stating air pollution is on the rise across Harrogate district has led to a wave of criticism from Knaresborough residents and local councillors that not enough is being done by county authorities to tackle the issue.

Last month it was revealed that a second Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) would have to be declared in the historic market town at York Place, in addition to an existing AQMA at Bond End.

Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have a joint responsibility to undertake action plans for AQMAs where pollution is a real threat to residents’ health.

When it was revealed that a new AQMA would have to be declared to DEFRA, cabinet member for sustainable transport, Coun Rebecca Burnett, said that “getting people out of the cars can be the only resolution”.

That has provoked criticism from residents, who said various new developments across the town will see many more cars passing through and adding to air pollution.

Malcolm Woodword, who lives at Beech Grove, said: “There is planning permission for 600 new houses at Manse Farm, 164 are currently being built at The Pastures on Boroughbridge Road, an appeal is pending for a further 74 dwellings off Orchard Close and an application is expected for 81 houses off Bar Lane.

“These developments, together with various small ‘windfall’ builds throughout the town could add up to a further 1,000 new homes and, seeing that many households now have two cars, there is a possibility of another 2,000 cars passing through Knaresborough and a lot more people to be persuaded that ‘getting people out of the car has got to be the only resolution’, to quote Councillor Burnett.”

North Yorkshire County Councillor Bill Hoult, for Knaresborough, said air pollution “is increasing almost everywhere” and claimed Coun Burnett’s comments could be ‘technically incorrect’.

He said: “If people get out their cars and walked or cycled they are the ones that are going to be more at risk in these areas because they are unprotected rather than the people sat in their cars.”

Coun Burnett, who remained committed to her previous comments, said: “In the current climate of planning policies it doesn’t seem to me that bad air pollution anywhere can stop new developments because we need to build new homes and that’s what we are being asked to do by government, and inevitably some of those houses will be in Knaresborough and we can’t get away from that in the same way people say getting out the cars is an unrealistic solution.”

On Monday, The Yorkshire Post reported that home ownership levels across Yorkshire have plummeted - with campaigners blaming a lack of affordable housing.

Harrogate’s air pollution concerns have been mirrored across the region. On Tuesday, councillors in Leeds discussed plans to introduce a ‘clean air tax’ on motorists in the city – raising fears that thousands of people who drive for a living could potentially be banned from the city centre and left out of pocket.