Plenary Tuesday 24th January 2017Spoken Contribution - 17:59:52
So, in truth, only two out of 42 have ever effectively been revoked and a success of less than 5 per cent can hardly be construed as a breath of fresh air.
The debate today covers a wide range of areas, so I will concentrate on one aspect, which is air quality. Air quality matters to everybody, so it is right that we take what steps we can in the Assembly to improve it. We in UKIP support the Government’s motion today. We also support the Conservative amendment, which tackles the issue that the Welsh Government has the ability to impose AQMAs—air quality management areas—in places where air quality is particularly bad, but these AQMAs are only supposed to be temporary measures until the air quality improves, whereupon the AQMA is revoked. However, in reality, as we’ve heard from David Melding, only four out of 42 AQMAs have ever been revoked and, in two of these cases, they were quickly replaced by other AQMAs covering the affected areas. So, in truth, only two out of 42 have ever effectively been revoked and a success of less than 5 per cent can hardly be construed as a breath of fresh air.
So, what can we do to improve air quality? Well, problems that can cause a decline in air quality would include a proliferation of extractor fans in a relatively small area. These are often used in premises where there are kitchens. But when I consider how two areas just outside Cardiff city centre have developed in recent years, that is Cowbridge Road in Canton and City Road in Roath, there have been more and more licences granted to restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets. Many of the fast food shops also use delivery vehicles. These developments in such intensity can only worsen air quality in those areas. So, one question is: how does the Welsh Government co-ordinate its air quality drive in its dealings with local councils in their role as licensing authorities and how effective are these measures?
Another significant factor in air quality decline is increasing traffic congestion. Now, I also observe that several major organisations are due to relocate to Cardiff’s Central Square from outlying suburbs, notably the Inland Revenue, BBC Wales and MotoNovo Finance. Now, I know that parking spaces are being restricted in Central Square, but I’m also fairly sure that many employees of these organisations will nevertheless choose to drive into town to work, thereby increasing traffic congestion and worsening air quality. So, these air quality worries haven’t done anything to prevent the Central Square development, which is being pushed by a Labour council, and it is a scheme that has been enthusiastically endorsed by the Welsh Government. So, how important really is air quality to the Welsh Government? How do air quality concerns factor into these kinds of planning decisions?
A final significant impact on air quality is increasing housing supply in a relatively congested area, yet Cardiff has a local development plan, hatched by its Labour council, which plans for large increases in house building on the green belt. This will clearly impact on air quality. So, what measures can the Minister take to protect air quality from these kinds of environmentally damaging local development plans? Thanks.