Committee says new bypass at Llandeilo is urgently needed

AIR pollution concerns have prompted councillors to demand action on a Llandeilo bypass from the Welsh Government.

Carmarthenshire’s environmental and public protection scrutiny committee was given updates about air quality management areas (AQMAs) in Llandeilo, Llanelli and Carmarthen, which have been established because of nitrogen dioxide level breaches.

The Llandeilo AQMA was set up in 2011, years after the bypass proposal was first discussed.

Addressing the committee, Sue Watts, the council’s environmental protection manager, said: “We do need the actual bypass. I think that’s the only thing that’s going to improve it at all.”

She said the Welsh Government had completed the first of a two-stage appraisal of the bypass scheme, but that ecology, route and flooding matters still needed addressing.

“It’s going to be a few years before anything happens on the ground,” she said.

Councillors resolved to write to Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, and his deputy Lee Waters, who is AM for Llanelli.

Panel chairman, councillor John James, referred to the case of a nine-year-old girl from London, who is suspected to have died from air pollution and whose family has now been given permission to apply for a fresh inquest into her death.

“One fatality is too many,” said Cllr James.

He said the Llandeilo bypass was a matter of “total urgency”.

“It’s not happening quickly enough,” he said. “It needs to be done now.”

Actions have been taken in Llandeilo as a result of the AQMA being established but they have not led to a “demonstrable” improvement in air quality, according to a report before the committee.

The AQMAs at Llanelli and Carmarthen were declared in August 2016.

Council officers have been monitoring air pollution at a primary school in Carmarthen which gives real-time readings, enabling pupils to see that parents idling in their cars outside can increase the problem.

The authority hopes that more schools adopt walking and cycling to school initiatives, although councillor Gary Jones said driving was the only option for some parents.

He also said that more cars would be on the roads as a result of new housing at sites earmarked as such by the county’s local development plan.

Other factors affect air quality and Carmarthenshire is by no means unique in having AQMAs, but councillors heard that a wider roll-out of real-time measuring equipment would be very costly.

When asked, officers also said that the authority’s vehicle fleet was renewed around 18 months ago and was considered low emission.

Councillor Mansel Charles said the AQMA update for Llandeilo was not pleasant reading, and that he hoped the letter to ministers would have the required effect.

He said his sister had spoken to Mr Waters on the subject since his promotion.
“Hopefully the message (from the committee) is going back to him clearly,” said Cllr Charles.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman confirmed that stage one of the bypass appraisal was complete.

She said: “Environmental surveys and traffic modelling studies have already been undertaken, as have preliminary ecological and walking, cycling and horse-riding assessments.

“The purpose of stage two is to examine in greater detail a shortlist of options, based on their ability to solve the problem, their fit with local, regional objectives, their positive impacts across all aspects of well-being, and their potential to drive long lasting change. This is currently ongoing.”

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