Cornwall air pollution: Residents 'could be moved'

A car exhaust Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Under the council's proposals, residents in areas with poor air quality would be moved to new neighbourhoods

Residents in pollution hotspots could be relocated under new clean air proposals.

Cornwall Council has discussed plans which could include compulsory purchases of properties in areas with "particularly poor air quality".

It admitted the scheme was likely to be "very controversial", but said it was cheaper than alternative measures.

The council said relocation was just one of several options being considered.

More on the air pollution relocation plan, and other Cornwall news

As part of the Clean Air for Cornwall Strategy, six approaches have been explored, including creating new neighbourhoods in "clean air" zones, although "no specific area" has been chosen.

Councillor Geoff Brown said none of the options has been excluded, including compulsory purchase "as a last resort".

There are currently seven Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in Cornwall which fail to meet national air quality objectives.

Truro, Gunnislake, St Austell, Tideford, Bodmin, Camelford and the area of Kerrier - containing Pool, Camborne and Redruth - have all been declared AQMAs since 2005.

Image caption There are seven AQMAs in Cornwall, where air quality has fallen below national standards

All seven areas have been singled out for the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is associated with respiratory problems, lung disease and cancer.

Levels of the pollutant were recorded in the Highertown area of Truro in 2013 at 96 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air - more than double the EU's air quality standard annual limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre and higher than some parts of London, including Beech Street in the City of London, which recorded 85 micrograms per cubic metre.

'Anti-idling legislation'

Camelford was given AQMA status in January 2017 after pressure from the Camelford Clean Air Group.

Chairwoman Claire Hewlett said on an average summer day, about 11,000 vehicles go through a "tiny little town" which was not built for that level of traffic.

She said relocating residents from highly polluted areas was a "radical" idea, as it appeared to contradict the council's transport strategy, which was about people living close to where they work.

"Surely you want people to stay where they're working so that they can walk or cycle," she said.

Tim Pitt, who has lived in Camelford for 12 years, said he did not agree with residents having to move home.

"Deal with the pollution and leave people where they are," he said.

ClientEarth Healthy Air campaigner Andrea Lee branded the idea "extraordinary", but said it was important to tackle the sources of air pollution.

Another option being considered by the council is "anti-idling legislation" which would see motorists fined £20 for keeping their engines running while idle in places like taxi ranks, train stations and schools.

Legal advice would be taken before any decisions are made.

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