A NOTORIOUS traffic bottleneck in Truro has the worst air quality in Cornwall – with pollution levels higher than London’s West End.
The Highertown road going from County Hall to the Royal Cornwall Hospital has pollution levels nearly two and a half times the recommended limit.
The situation was described as horrifying by a Truro councillor – but is expected to get even worse, with 200 new homes being built just off Highertown and a planned 1,500-home scheme at Langarth.
Approximately 29,000 people in the UK die prematurely each year due to poor air quality.
Cornwall councillor Fiona Ferguson, said: “The statistics are horrifying. I’ve always expressed my concern about the impact of new developments in Truro on the traffic in Highertown.”
Environmental protection officer Eloise Travis confirmed the worst levels on Highertown were at 99 micrograms of nitrogen dioxide per cubic metre of air, against a European Union limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre. On London’s busy Shaftesbury Avenue the average level is only 71 micrograms per cubic metre.
Nitrogen dioxide, a reddish-brown gas with a pungent and irritating odour, helps form smog and can irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infection.
Council highways officers have worked with Taylor Wimpey, developer of the former Richard Lander School site, on plans for a bus lane on Highertown under which trees, which help reduce pollution, would be removed.
City and Cornwall councillor Rob Nolan said: “I’m shocked at these levels of air pollution. Children going to Richard Lander walk along this road every day and are exposed to unacceptable levels of pollution, as are hospital staff and local residents, yet Cornwall Council plans to cut down 33 trees along this stretch of road, which can only make things worse.
“We need an urgent public meeting so residents and road users can be informed of Cornwall Council’s plans to address this terrible situation.”
Cornwall Council said it was considering making Highertown an air quality management area next year to fully address the problem.
Ben Wheeler, a health geographer at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health in Truro, said the health effects of traffic pollution were mostly felt by people with existing heart and lung conditions, such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease.
“People always make presumptions that because Cornwall is so rural, it wouldn’t have air quality problems, but that’s not always the case,” he said.