Basildon Council submits A127 pollution plan amid Government calls for a congestion charge

AIR quality tests have found illegal pollution along the A127 in Basildon is worse than previously thought.

A report, to be considered by Basildon Council’s Policy and Resources Committee, said two additional areas of illegal pollution had been discovered.

Plans to tackle the toxic problem with a new speed limit may not be completely effective, the report said – but it also said Government’s proposed solution of introducing a congestion charge might not work quickly enough either.

In early 2018, Government issued ‘ministerial direction’ to Basildon and Rochford councils, instructing them to act immediately to reduce pollution along certain sections of the congested road.

The direction stated that a congestion charge would have to be imposed if the councils could not come up with alternative measures that were at least as effective.

In Basildon, illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) had been detected at locations between the Fortune of War roundabout and the Burnt Mills industrial estate.

NO2 is toxic by inhalation and, at levels above the legal limit, can reduce lung function, aggravate asthma and cause respiratory illness.

A council report published ahead of this week’s meeting said further testing had identified ‘additional exceedances’ in the area – at Noak Bridge and East Mayne.

Basildon Council has proposed reducing the speed limit in the area to 50mph. The report states that the full ‘business case’ for the speed change has been completed and submitted.

But, said the report: “The level of non-compliance remaining after the implementation of the A127 speed limit reduction has been questioned as to whether this could be considered a proportionate response to the local issues of concern.”

The document adds that the council was also ‘required’ by Government this year – following a further ministerial direction issued in June – to carry out ‘modelling’ for a congestion charge.

But, wrote council officers: “The nature of the local traffic network on the industrial estates, and the need to maintain legitimate access, makes such access restrictions unenforceable – and therefore it was not considered appropriate to devote significant resource to modelling this option.

“Additional modelling was therefore undertaken in relation to a charging clean air zone and submitted to DEFRA by the deadline required of July 31, 2019. Officers are awaiting feedback in relation to that submission.”

Officers wrote that their modelling had found a congestion zone would tackle the illegal pollution levels – but might not do so as quickly as Government wants the problem dealt with, which is by 2022.

Charles Thomson

Chief ReporterEmail: [email protected]