Councils working together to improve air quality

At its next meeting on 12 December, the Guildford Joint Committee will consider the outline business case to enable the Blackwater Valley partnership to move forward with improving air quality on the A331.

Surrey County Councillor, Keith Taylor, Chairman of The Guildford Joint Committee, said: "We already work in partnership with Guildford Borough Council on a range of projects, particularly those supporting the county's role as the highways authority for the borough.

"Making a difference to Surrey's roads is a key responsibility and this includes improving the air quality on major highways such as the A331. Both councils are members of the Blackwater Valley partnership and will continue to work together as this significant project progresses. The five councils involved aim to introduce measures to reduce the nitrogen dioxide levels on this heavily used local route. The Guildford Joint Committee is also due to consider a report focussing on wider air quality measures across the borough at its March meeting."

The Blackwater Valley partnership is made up of Guildford, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor borough councils along with Surrey and Hampshire county councils. They have jointly prepared the outline business case (OBC) as they all have an interest in the A331. This work follows a specific government direction to cut nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the UK National Plan published in 2017.

Cllr Paul Spooner, Leader of Guildford Borough Council and Vice Chair of the committee, said: "Improving air quality in the borough by working with other councils is one of the ways we can tackle the things that matter to our residents and local economy. Our collaboration, as part of the Blackwater Valley partnership, produced the initial feasibility study that led to the proposals for a reduced speed limit of 50mph on one section of the A331 and other measures such as extra signage.

"As well as important joint projects, we are also working on a range of different ways to improve air quality for communities across our borough. This includes publishing our new Air Quality Strategy last year, developing the action plan for Compton's Air Quality Management Area, our ongoing partnership with the University of Surrey's Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) and the comprehensive network of local monitoring points. Our continued focus on better air quality is another part of making sure Guildford is a great place to live and work."

As well as consideration and agreement by the Guildford Joint Committee, the proposals and OBC also need to be agreed by the other councils in the Blackwater Valley Partnership. The approved OBC would then be submitted to the DEFRA/DfT Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU), who also provided initial funding for the joint project.

Following approval of the OBC by the Secretary of State for the Environment, and their agreement to fund the proposed measures, the next step would be statutory public consultation by Hampshire and Surrey county councils as the relevant highways authorities.

More information on the committee and detailed report can be found at Surrey County Council.

Published on Tuesday 4 December.