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20mph speed limit has improved air quality in Usk, official figures show

Air quality in Bridge Street the main road through Usk has been improving since a 20mph speed limit was introduced (Pic: LDRS)

THE INTRODUCTION of a 20 mile per hour speed limit reduced pollution in a Gwent town, it has been claimed. 

Official figures have shown an improvement in air quality in Usk over the past nine years and the council could consider removing its status as an Air Quality Management Area – put in place as pollution in the town was above national standards. 

Councillor Meirion Howells said he welcomed the improvement, and a 20 mile per hour zone had contributed to a reduction in pollution on the town’s Bridge Street which has been declared an Air Quality Management Area. 

Meirion Howells is the independent councillor for Llanbadoc and Usk on Monmouthshire County Council (Pic: MCC)

The independent councillor for Llanbadoc and Usk said: “I think we all noted the 20 mile per hour made a difference and certainly helped.” 

The councillor, who was speaking as Monmouthshire County Council’s performance scrutiny committee was updated on the work of its environmental health department, added it would have to be noted how the introduction of the lower limit across Wales has made a difference to air quality across over the longer term. 

A 20 mph limit was introduced on Monmouth Road and Castle Parade and Bridge Street, which form part of the A472 the main road through the town, in November 2017. The lower limit was then extended to residential streets throughout Usk in 2023 before it became the default speed limit in built up areas in Wales in September last year. 

Bridge Street in Usk was designated an Air Quality Management Area as nitrogen dioxide, produced as a result of cars burning fossil fuels, was exceeding 40 micrograms per cubic metre annually. 

The report for the committee stated: “2023 was the ninth year that levels in the Usk Air Quality Management Area were below the nitrogen dioxide objective level and the sixth year below 36 per cubit metre (which is below 10% of the objective level).” 

Last year marked six years since the 20mph zone was introduced. 

Welsh Government guidance states council can consider revoking Air Quality Management Area status if emissions are below 10 per cent of the objective level for five years.

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The report stated the council has taken into consideration the drop in traffic during the pandemic period: “Making allowances for lower traffic levels during the two years of the covid pandemic, if 2024 is again below 10 per cent of the objective level, consideration will be given to revoking the AQMA status.” 

The implementation of the 20mph zone, from 2017, as well as enforcement of double yellow line parking restrictions, a lorry watch scheme to help enforce a Road Traffic Order banning larger vehicles from the centre of town and improved signage were all listed completed measures as part of an action plan to improve air quality in Usk. 

The A48 at Hardwick Hill, Chepstow is also designated an Air Quality Management Area where the council uses  more accurate, automatic monitoring equipment. 

The report said monitoring in Usk and Chepstow, and other monitoring in its four major towns, found the nitrogen dioxide level hadn’t been exceeded during the 2023 calendar year which it stated “builds on the previous three compliant years”. 

The council’s most recently available air quality progress report, from September 2023 which covers result of air quality monitoring in 2022, states “air quality in Monmouthshire has been steadily improving since 2012”. 

It said there has been an improvement in air quality at Hardwick Hill since 2017.