Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change
Following constructive discussions with Cardiff Council I have signed a Direction under the Environment Act 1995 detailing the actions the authority will take to ensure compliance with statutory limits for nitrogen dioxide in ambient air.
I am committed to ensuring strong and effective action is taken to improve air quality for the benefit of public health. Our Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales confirms our long-term ambition to improve air quality, and the steps we are taking to deliver this. Our Clean Air Bill will strengthen the action we are already taking to reduce emissions and deliver vital improvements in air quality, supporting healthier communities and better environments.
In our Air Quality Plan we describe the urgent action we are taking to achieve compliance with statutory limits for nitrogen dioxide in ambient air at several roadside locations in Wales. Through the Plan we have worked very closely with Cardiff Council to tackle nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the city centre, providing funding of more than £19m for an ambitious package of clean air measures. This package includes an infrastructure scheme for Castle Street which provides improved active travel and public transport connections and reduces general traffic access.
In the context of protecting public health, Cardiff Council have taken the decision to reconsider their Castle Street scheme to ensure it is still the right approach and is sufficiently ambitious. In June last year the Council resolved to install the approved Castle Street scheme on an interim (temporary) basis and undertake further modelling and analysis of the scheme on clean air, congestion, and city recovery and renewal.
The Direction requires Cardiff Council to implement a permanent infrastructure scheme for Castle Street to ensure sustained compliance with nitrogen dioxide limits. The authority will undertake a further feasibility study for options that they propose to consider as potential alternatives to the approved scheme. The schedule to the Direction lists a number of requirements in relation to the additional assessment. These include provision of initial scoping proposals and initial and final plans to an appropriate timetable, reflecting the urgency of our programme to deliver compliance with nitrogen dioxide limits. Our independent air quality review panel will provide expert scrutiny and support throughout this process. We will work closely with Cardiff Council to support delivery of the Direction requirements.
Whilst undertaking this further assessment, Cardiff Council will continue to closely monitor air quality in the city centre and undertake action where necessary to ensure levels on Castle Street continue to remain compliant.