THIS week's Councillor Column is written by Cllr David Kinniburgh (Conservative, Helensburgh and Lomond South).

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COUNCILS like Argyll and Bute have a statutory duty, in accordance with Part IV of the Environment Act 1995, to assess local air quality each year and produce a Local Air Quality Annual Progress Report.

At the October meeting of the council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee, members were presented with the results of the Local Air Quality Annual Progress Report 2021 for Argyll and Bute.

This concluded that local air quality continues to be good with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels well within air quality objectives.

The air quality is monitored by analysing the contents of diffusion tubes placed in towns or alongside roads where pollutants from traffic are likely to have the highest concentration levels. In Argyll and Bute the results are gathered from 10 locations, three of which are in Helensburgh and Lomond – at Sinclair Street and East Princes Street in Helensburgh itself, and also alongside the A814 in Cardross.

The diffusion tubes are mostly monitoring vehicle emissions and although the results gathered show a steady or falling trend in the longer term, and are well within the mean objective of 40µg/m³ (micrograms per cubic metre), the effects of reduced travel and therefore reduced emissions from Covid-19 restrictions can be seen when comparing the results from 2020 with 2019.

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On average the readings from the 10 diffusion tubes in 2019 was 14.98µg/m³ with the highest reading being 21.9 and the lowest 2.2. This compared to an average of 10.66µg/m³ in 2020 with the highest reading being 16.1 and the lowest 2.7.

You may have seen media coverage recently discussing the introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZs) in our major cities. One of the reasons LEZs are put in place is to improve air quality – and when you look at the figures for Glasgow’s Local Air Quality Progress Report it is easy to see why LEZs are being put in place there.

Although there is a greater number of diffusion tubes in Glasgow, the highest reading recorded was 59µg/m³ with a reading of 40µg/m³ or more being recorded at eight sites.

Moving forward to 2020, you can once again see the effect of reduced travel due to Covid-19 restrictions as only one site recorded a figure of 40µg/m³ in the whole of Glasgow.

Keeping within local air quality objectives is vital to the protection of public health from particulates. And although LEZs encourage a shift to more sustainable transport options it is vital that the ambitious targets of banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and ensuring all new car and van sales are zero emission vehicles by 2035, are met to ensure good local air quality for all.