Transport Blog

Air Quality in Marlborough

Published by Sam Page on 30 December 2015

Image Transition Marlborough was recently tasked with reporting on the state of Marlborough's Air Quality, by Malborough Area Board in order for them to fulfill their obligations to DEFRA and the Supreme Court.  Here is a summary of our key findings - you can read the full nine page report by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

Sources of air pollution in Marlborough

The highest levels of NO2 and PM are emitted when queues of diesel vehicles are forced to stop and start, with engines idling when they are stationary, at the many pedestrian/puffin crossings and mini-roundabouts that obstruct the A4 and A346, within the AQMA. There are three crossings within 0.5 mile on the A4, close to Marlborough College, while two puffin crossings are situated on steep inclines on the A346. HGVs, in particular, that are forced to stop and start on steep inclines are likely to be a major source of pollution, both from braking to slow down and stop and from the exhaust fumes that are released on accelerating away. There are also several mini-roundabouts at junctions between the A4 and A346 that are situated close to residential housing. Congested traffic is common at these roundabouts. Queues of vehicles often tail back as far as Savernake Forest on the A346, while there are queues backing up beyond the Manton turn-off, on the A4, in the mornings and late afternoons, especially during term times. NO2 and Carbon monoxide (CO) is also emitted from the many buses and coaches that wait in the High Street with their engines idling.  

Recommendations for improving air quality in Marlborough

Wilts. Council has been monitoring NO2 levels outside 6 Herd street since the beginning of 2008. During this time, the level of NO2 at this site has been consistently above 52 µg/m3. The response from Wilts Council has been to write annual 'progress reports' that simply confirm these exceedances, without making any practical recommendations to address the issue. Residents who live along the most polluted stretches of the A346 deserve some action to mitigate this serious public health problem. In order to reduce NO2 (and PM) emissions to a safe level in Marlborough, traffic flows would need to be reduced by between 30 and 50%. This means that significant measures must be implemented in order to a) reduce traffic flows and eliminate pollution hot-spots and b) prevent further degeneration of air quality in the town. Full implementation of the following eight recommendations could achieve these objectives. It should be noted that TM has been lobbying Wilts. Council to implement many of these recommendations, during the past three years:

Consider the impacts on air quality when installing pedestrian crossings

The needs of pedestrians need to be balanced with those of surrounding residents. It was a local resident who first complained about the reduction in air quality following the installation of a puffin crossing on Herd Street in 2007. Since then two new pedestrian crossings have be installed on the A4, close to Marlborough College. No new pedestrian crossings should be installed without first assessing the impact on air quality.

Improve public transport to reduce reliance on private cars

In May 2012, TM presented a report entitled: “The Need for Joined-up Public Transport in favour of Marlborough’s Commuters”, to the Area Board meeting. Copies of this report were tabled to Wilts. Councillors. In this report we referred to the difficulty in commuting by public transport to employment centres, such as Reading, London or Bristol, due to the lack of integration between buses and train times, and the lack of buses early and late enough to allow travellers to catch the commuter trains, see Item 11 of the Minutes of 29 May 2012, Marlborough Area Board meeting. Although the recommendations made by this report were in line with Wilts. Council's transport strategy, no improvements have been made to local bus services.

TM has also been campaigning for the restoration of the Marlborough rail link. Our on-line campaign attracted more than 1,000 supporters. A railway station in Marlborough would enable local residents to walk or cycle to the station, rather than drive to Bedwyn or Pewsey. We are currently seeking funds for a feasibility study.

Improve the cycling infrastructure

TM has been lobbying town and unitary councillors for improvements to the cycling infrastructure for the past three years. So far cycle racks have been installed at one end of the High Street, but we have been unsuccessful in getting racks installed in a more central location, outside Polly Tea Rooms. The path that links Manton with Marlborough has finally been resurfaced at Treacle Bolley. Cyclists can now use this path all year round. Although TM has established a cycle network in parts of the town, we are still waiting for the promised signage. Section 108 funding has been allocated to build a cycle path that links the Sustrans cycle network (which extends to Swindon) at Five Stiles Road with the Business Park. However, we are still waiting to hear when this work will be done. Unfortunately, cycling through the town centre, via the High Street is still a risky activity, especially for children, considering the heavy traffic and the lines of cars that are parked either side of the road, alongside the pavement. Improving the cycling infrastructure would encourage residents to cycle, rather than drive to school or the town centre.

Discourage cars from parking in the town centre

Drivers are currently encouraged to come into the town centre, due to the presence of free parking spaces. Many drivers cruise around the High Street until a free space becomes available. In January 2015, TM contributed to Wilts. Council's parking consultation and suggested that differential parking fees be introduced to discourage parking in the High Street. This would have made parking cheaper or free in out-lying car parks, whilst only allowing free parking for the disabled and those with zero emission/electric cars in the High Street (N.B. TM called for the provision of charging points for electric cars in the High Street in 2013). Such a scheme could lead to the construction of wider, tree-lined pavements, where pedestrians and cyclists would be prioritised and air quality much improved.

Oblige bus drivers to turn off engines while waiting at Lloyds Bank bus stop

An idling engine can produce up to twice as many exhaust emissions (including Carbon monoxide) as an engine in motion. Vehicle idling is an offence against the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002, incurring a fixed penalty notice of £20. It is recommended that Wilts. Council erect signs close to the bus stops in the town centre, reminding drivers of this obligation.

Do random checks on diesel vehicles to measure toxic emissions

Random checks should be made on diesel vehicles entering Marlborough to ensure that they comply with the regulations on toxic emissions.

Fit air purifiers in dwellings close to air pollution hot-spots

More than 100 dwellings are situated close to the roads with the highest levels of toxic emissions. Many of these dwellings are terraced, without front gardens and are separated from the road only by a narrow pavement. The air quality inside these buildings should be regularly tested and air purifiers installed by Wilts. Council if necessary.

Constrain future developments in Marlborough within or adjacent to the AQMA

According to Wilts. Council's 'Local Air Quality Management Detailed Assessment of Herd Street, Marlborough, August 2010': following the declaration of an AQMA, the impact upon the Air Quality of any development proposed within or adjacent to the area will need to be assessed as a material planning consideration. While this would not necessarily prevent development, should an adverse impact upon the air quality be identified then it would need to be taken into account and if necessary remediation measures proposed to counter any likely degeneration in the air quality.