M4 speed cut could help reduce air pollution in Port Talbot
THE Welsh Government is investigating whether cutting speed on the M4 could help drive down the town's air pollution levels.
Air quality is actually better now than it has been for years. But Neath Port Talbot Council, the Welsh Government and Environment Agency are still working together to try to bring about further improvements.
A raft of potential measures are being discussed, including whether controversial proposals to shut motorway slip roads and introduce average speed cameras on the M4 will cut pollution.
An Air Quality Management Area was established in the Taibach and Margam area in 2000 because of high levels of PM10 (fine particle) pollution.
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Neath Port Talbot then introduced its Airwise action plan, while in 2008 the Welsh Government issued what was known as a Short Term Competent Authority Action Plan, or Stap.
All 16 of the actions contained in that plan required action by Welsh Ministers. Now a revised Stap has gone out for consultation setting out actions to be carried out this time by the Welsh Government, the council and Environment Agency.
Head of planning Geoff White said: "Since 2006 the direction of travel is that the air quality has been improving. Last year we had 11 occasions when the limit was exceeded, which is the best we have had for some considerable years. It's still 11 too many but it is moving in the right direction."
Measures the council would be responsible for include continuing to work with Costain to ensure the construction of Harbour Way does not hit air quality. The Welsh Government has also suggested it should introduce dust suppression measures on all roads the council has responsibility for, though Mr White is not in favour of this.
Another possible measure is a voluntary agreement with local industry to reduce activity on site when PM10 levels are high.
Meanwhile, the Welsh Government will consider restricting traffic or reducing speed limits on the M4 and main roads with the aim of ensuring a smooth flow of traffic.
It has been looking at the closure or partial closure of junctions 40 and 41 at Taibach and Pentyla and the introduction of an average speed camera.
Last year it delayed the start of consultation on this. But the Stap measure would mean it looking at the proposals from a pollution control perspective and not just from the safety angle.
Council climate change manager Geoff Marquis said: "The question was asked at some stage whether those proposals would improve air quality so the Welsh Government is looking at that."