The majority of Wokingham Borough has good air quality, but like most areas in the country, there are a few hot spots where it is above the recommended government guidelines.
In Wokingham town centre, there is a higher than recommended amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air around Shute End in the west of the town, Denmark Street in the south and London Road to the east. In Twyford there is a higher than recommended amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air around the A321 crossroads. In the interest of everyone’s health and wellbeing Wokingham Borough Council is now looking at ways to reduce the levels.
As a result, these areas in Wokingham town centre and Twyford have now been designated as Air Quality Management Areas. This means that the next step will see the borough council pulling together Air Quality Action Plans to address air quality and it’s asking local people to get involved to help shape it. It is hoped to un-declare these area as soon as possible.
Larger quantities of nitrogen dioxide are more commonly found in areas where there is traffic congestion. Wokingham Borough’s road network has the unique problem of serving one of the highest car ownership ratios in the UK as well having major strategic routes – the A329M and M4. The borough council is overseeing some £33million on improving the borough’s highways to better cope with current traffic levels and reduce congestion.
The council is committed to tackling congestion. One initiative will see a network of paths, known as greenways, being developed. They would link rural and urban areas initially in Shinfield, Arborfield and Wokingham and eventually the whole borough – in part linking with the existing bridleways and byways. They will be great routes for getting to school or work but also for leisure time at the weekends.
Work started on a £2million grant-funded cycleway in 2014 that will eventually run the length of Wokingham borough’s section of the A329, from the Three Tuns junction to Coppid Beech roundabout. It’s set to be completed in 2018.
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for resident services, said: "The declaration of the new Air Quality Management Areas in Wokingham town centre and Twyford are an important positive step towards improving the quality of the air in and around the town centres, and the well-being of our residents and visitors.
"We are keen to hear from individuals and local interest groups to help us shape the plan to make these improvements that will benefit us all. Please get in touch if you are interested. The plan could include traffic light phasing, minimising HGV, promoting and improving cycleways, raising awareness about public transport or encouraging people to car share – but we are interested to hear what you think and would love you to get involved."
Copies of the air quality reports and map of the AQMA can be found on the West Berks website. Anyone interested in helping shape the Air Quality Action Plan should email: firstname.lastname@example.org.