Neath Port Talbot Council has broadly welcomed new Welsh Government plans to tackle roadside pollution which, in the short term, rule out controversial proposals to close Junction 41 of the M4 motorway at Port Talbot.
The Welsh Government has now announced its supplement to the UK plan for tackling harmful roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations in Wales.
It will mean 50mph limits imposed in June at five sections of the motorway and trunk road network in Wales, including a stretch between Junctions 41 and 42 of the M4 at Port Talbot, will be extended for an indefinite period (though subject to periodic review).
As well as the extended 50mph zones, the Welsh Government is planning a “variable diversion” scheme encouraging local traffic for Newport to leave the M4 prior to Junctions 25 and 26 when periods of high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are likely.
However, plans to close Junction 41 of the M4 at Port Talbot are not included in the Welsh Government’s pollution reduction proposals.
The Welsh Government acknowledges: “the diversion route that could be used has had a number of further developments constructed including a super school (Ysgol Bae Baglan)”.
The Welsh Government now deems the closure of Junction 41 to be “a precautionary retained measure until further work and discussion can take place with the local authority and stakeholders in the area.”
It also concedes the measure is “likely to be strongly resisted by local residents and the local authority” with ministers considering that the potentially significant time period required to investigate and implement the closure means this measure would not reduce NO2 concentrations any sooner than the speed limits alone.
Cllr Rob Jones, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said:
“We already work very cIosely with the Welsh Government on air quality and will continue to play our part in monitoring to check what effect these latest measures will have.
“It must be noted the Welsh Government’s plan says even if no action is taken (other than the speed limit restrictions) we will be air quality compliant by the end of 2020 at the latest.
“We take the issue of air quality extremely seriously and are glad the Welsh Government has noted concerns about the effect on areas close to the M4 if a junction closure was implemented.”
Welsh Ministers anticipate the 50mph limits will remain in force for as long as they are required to maintain air quality standards.
The Welsh Government’s supplemental plan says: “It is expected that vehicle emissions will reduce as more new and cleaner vehicles come into use and older, more polluting vehicles become obsolete.”