New tech could suck pollution out of air in congested villages local to Midsomer Norton

  Posted: 18.11.20 at 08:30 by By Local Democracy Reporter Stephen Sumner

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New technology could be brought in to suck the pollution out of the air in two congested villages close to Midsomer Norton.

The £14,000 piece of kit is normally used indoors but could be trialled on the pavement where nitrogen dioxide levels are worst in Temple Cloud and Farrington Gurney.

But the device is essentially untested outside and will only clean the air within a small radius, prompting fears it will be a costly “white elephant”.

Bath and North East Somerset Council is using other quick wins to improve air quality in the villages – it is creating a new footpath in Temple Cloud to take pedestrians away from the road, cutting back the tree canopy so the pollution can escape and lowering the speed limit to reduce stopping and starting.

Environmental protection manager Aled Williams told scrutiny panel members on November 16: “We’re looking at the use of technology to clean the air. It would remove nitrogen dioxide in the vicinity of the cabinet.

“It’s innovative technology because they’re not widely used outside. You tend to find it inside hospitals, flats.

“The market isn’t flooded with these things. The company we met said the unit has a fan inside, it draws the air through a filter.

“They were suggesting the efficiency is probably 2.5 metres to the side. That’s one type of technology, we need to look further afield.”

The firm quoted £14,000 and then £1,000 a year in maintenance.

Councillor Joel Hirst said: “I worry we haven’t got any independent evidence about the technology. I’m worried we might end up with an expensive white elephant that doesn’t deliver.

“Could we think about road charging for the most polluting vehicles? How could we divert the problem rather than mitigate it?”

The busy A37 runs through both villages.

Average nitrogen dioxide levels in the last three years have been as high as 75 micrograms per cubic metre in Temple Cloud – the legal limit is 40 micrograms.

The air quality in Farrington Gurney has also exceeded the limit, with summer averages hitting 50 micrograms.

Cllr Lisa O’Brien said: “I was quite horrified to see the pollution levels.

“Although the technology sounds like a quick fix it doesn’t address the overall issue of nitrogen dioxide going into the air.

“Eighteen thousand vehicles use the road every day. A small road is the main artery between the south and the M5. It’s not fit for purpose.”

She called for a new dual carriageway that can accommodate “large juggernauts” and a width restriction on the existing road, adding: “We had to push for proper infrastructure”.

Cabinet member Dave Wood said government department Defra had agreed that a width restriction would make a difference but the idea had been ruled out by West of England mayor Tim Bowles.

Other authorities had voiced concerns that the traffic would be displaced onto other roads.

He said the new footpath in Molly Close is “essentially a foot bypass” that will only add three minutes on to journeys, but added that it will not help residents living on the main road so the council will need to look at other options.

He said: “This project has come an incredibly long way. We thought there was nothing we can do, we’re going to have to wait nine years for vehicle quality to get better for air quality to come down. I’d like to commend the speed in moving this forward.”

A report on the options will be prepared for Cllr Wood.

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