According to the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), in their report ‘Abatement cost guidance for valuing changes in air quality’ (May 2013). The costs of reducing illegal levels of particulate matter (excluding other pollutants, for example, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide, Ozone and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), is £16 billion a year. Further, DERA’s report ‘Valuing the Overall Impacts of Air Pollution’ (March 2010) sets out estimates of reductions in life expectancy for population cohorts due to Illegal levels of harmful Particulate Matter (PM 2.5). One particular population cohort i.e., children born in 2008, the average loss of life expectancy is estimated to be 6 months. Also, the total reduction in life expectancy measured in loss of life years across the UK population is18.2 to 32.4 million life years lost.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s 2018 Air Quality Annual Status Report (dated June 2018) is currently unavailable on the Council’s website (as of 24thOctober 2018) and is 4 months overdue. Therefore, the Council is in breach of its legal obligation under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 and the public of central Bedfordshire who work or live in Central Bedfordshire’s Air Quality Management areas, for example, Dunstable Town Centre are unable to know whether their Health is being affected by illegal levels of pollutants. Further, the public consultation promised in the report on the Air Quality Action Plan for Ampthill and Sandy is also months overdue.

The Annual Monitoring report states; Currently nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the major pollutant of concern within Central Bedfordshire and is monitored throughout the district utilizing 36 diffusion tubes” and “Given the health impacts of smaller particles, focus has been directed on PM 2.5. Central Bedfordshire Council has been monitoring this at the automatic real time monitoring station in Sandy (adjacent to the A1) since 2013. As can be seen by the results discussed later – levels of PM2.5 monitored have slightly dropped year on year since monitoring began in 2013. However, the 2017 result of 11.62 (annualized) μg/m3, showed a slight decrease from last year. The PM 2.5 proposed EU Emission Limit Value of 25 μg/m3 has not been exceeded”.

There are several points to note when judging the significance of these statements; 1)Particulate Matter (PM 2.5) is only being monitored in the Sandy Air Quality Management Area and not in the Ampthill and Dunstable Air Quality Management Areas. The Ampthill and Dunstable sites are the responsibility of Central Bedfordshire Council. 2)There is only one automatic monitoring site in Central Bedfordshire and that is in the Sandy Air Quality Management Area. This site is the responsibility of Highways England. 3)The precise locations of non-automatic monitoring sites that only measure Nitrogen Dioxide, cannot be determined from the Status Report therefore the public cannot judge upon whom the adverse health effects impact and whether appropriate mitigations are in place, nor whether they should take personal measures, for example, use face masks to protect their health. 4)The European Air Quality limit and target values for the protection of human health cannot be found within the Status Report, therefore the public cannot assess the Council’s progress towards achieving the target 20% reduction in PM 2.5 by 2020. 5)Other pollutants impacting on Human health are not being monitored, for example, Sulphur Dioxide.

Finally, claims by local politicians concerning the Air Quality benefit of the New A5-M1 Link Road and the Woodside Link Road on the Dunstable Air Quality Management Area are dubious as a Central Bedfordshire Council Spokesperson stated on the 23/10/18; when discussing with me the content of the 2018 Annual Status Report,“It was very difficult to assess the direct impact from the A5-M1 Link Road, on air pollution concentrations within the Dunstable Air Quality Management Area and in the wider environs in a percentage figure, as a great many other factors were also going to potentially have an impact – i.e. the addition of the Woodside Link road, proposed development around this area and proposed changes to Dunstable town centre. By using the figure of 1% reduction of NO2 within the Air Quality Management Area was to acknowledge that the Link Road would likely take traffic from the town centre /Air Quality Management Area and therefore improve congestion and air quality, but that there were other factors that had not been fully assessed for the impact on air quality. Modelling is useful but does have limits and depends on many unknown factors and therefore has a level of uncertainty. Therefore monitoring continues and levels of pollutants will be reviewed carefully to ascertain the likely impact of these changes and then we can ascertain the true percentage of reduction of NO2 as a likely result of the new road network and changes to the town centre”.