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Air Quality


Reading has evolved from the town's manufacturing origins of beer, bulbs and biscuits to its current role as the service and financial centre of the Thames Valley. Strategically located as a major transport hub and in close proximity to Heathrow, Reading is now home to the largest concentration of information and communications technology corporations in the UK. Key companies based in the area include Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Prudential Assurance, with many more just outside the borough's constrained administrative boundaries.

This transformation is particularly evident in the centre of the town and Reading has become a top destination for retail and entertainment. The Reading of today is a sub-regional capital attracting large numbers of workers, shoppers and visitors from a wide area, adding to the vitality and success of the town, but at the same time putting extra pressure on the transport network in turn impacting on air quality across the borough.

the source apportionment studies have identified road traffic as the major source in the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) hotspots. An Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared along all the main arterial roads in and out of the centre of Reading.

The majority of the Reading economy is service sector based, however there are a small number of industrial premises, some of which require regulation and permitting under Pollution Control legislation.

What do we know?

Air quality in Reading is generally good. However, there are areas close to congested roads where levels of nitrogen dioxide exceed the air quality objectives and where levels of particulates are elevated. Particulates are classified by their mass (PM10 and PM2.5), with the smaller particulates, PM2.5 being more harmful due to their ability to travel further into the lung.

PM2.5 is understood to have no safe limit for health, it is therefore beneficial to reduce levels at all locations, not just hotspots that break a set limit.

New targets in the UK Air Quality Strategy set a 25μg/m3 'cap' for hotspots and a 15% reduction in PM2.5 levels in all urban locations by 2020.

Facts, Figures and Trends

A report published by The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) in 2010 estimated the number of deaths in the UK attributable to exposure to particulate air pollution to be 29,000.

New evidence is emerging that NO2 may have health impacts on a similar scale to those of PM.

Public Health England published a report in 2014: Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution, which used the COMEAP data from 2008 to estimate the percentage of deaths linked to particulate air pollution in local authority areas. In the report, the estimated percentage of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution in Reading is 5.9% of the population over 25, which equates to an estimated 62 deaths in 2008. The report does reflect that these figures are impacted by ambient particulate matter (PM2.5) and therefore the actual levels could range from one sixth to about double these figures.

Department of Health figures comparing the impact on life expectancy from reductions in fine particles (PM2.5) against elimination of road traffic accidents and passive smoking show that there are significant benefits to tackling man made particulate pollution.

National & Local Strategies (Current best practices)

Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 requires Local Authorities (LAs) to review and assess whether air quality objectives will be achieved. Where they are not an Air Quality management area must be declared and an Action Plan put in place. We are in the process of updating our Action Plan.

An Updating and Screening Assessment has been undertaken by Reading Borough Council (RBC). It forms part of the sixth round of Air Quality Review and Assessment.

It follows the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA) checklists and guidance for screening for potential exceedance of the National Air Quality Objectives (NAQOs) for the pollutants included in the Air Quality Regulations. It has reviewed new monitoring data and changes to sources and receptors since the previous round of Review and Assessment. DN: Add

Since the 2013 Progress Report there have been no changes to the Reading automatic monitoring network. Reading continues to own and operate three roadside continuous units; Caversham Road to the north, Kings Road to the east, and Oxford Road to the west. All three monitoring sites measure PM10 using Beta-Attenuation Mass (BAM) analysers, with data corrected using the appropriate correction factor (multiplication factor 0.83) and NO2 using chemiluminescent analysers. All sites are roadside, and are also in close proximity to residential receptors for long-term national air quality objective comparison.

What is this telling us?

As in the previous rounds of review and assessment, monitoring data has shown that the main pollutant of concern, exceeding the Nitrogen Dioxide National Air Quality Objective (NAQO). Although there have been exceedances of the hourly objective in the past, monitoring data from 2014 has not exceeded this objective.

There were 30 sites where an exceedance of the 40g/m3 annual mean was seen. A further 14 sites were indicating a borderline exceedance (>36g/m3) in 2014. All sites which were showing either an exceedance or a borderline exceedance were located within the current AQMA boundaries as formally declared in April 2009, therefore no detailed assessment will be required.

Monitoring data for PM10 collected at the Caversham Road and Kings Road continuous analysers indicates an exceedance of the 24hour objective (more than 35 exceedances of 50 μg/m3), when calculated using the 90th percentile method due to low data capture (87% and 88% respectively).

There are a number of possible reasons for this occurrence. A factor that may have had an impact on the pollution levels at the Caversham Road Air Quality Management System (AQMS) is the recently completed expansion of Reading Station and Cow Lane Bridges widening. Because of this work a large number of haulage vehicles have been using the route which may have impacted the recorded results. This work has recently finished so it is proposed to monitor the situation to see if the levels now drop to the levels recorded prior to the work commencing.

There have been road works near to the AQMS on Kings Road for a significant part of the year due to junction and bus lane improvements. This may have impacted the results recorded in 2014. These have now been completed so it is proposed to monitor the situation to see if levels now drop back to levels records in previous years.

What are the key inequalities?

People with respiratory or pulmonary conditions are more susceptible to poor air quality

What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?

There have been no new local sources or substantial changes to existing sources that have been identified as having a significant impact on air quality between 2012 and 2015. It is proposed to continue to monitor the situation.

This section links to the following sections in the JSNA:

Obesity - adult & child


Cardiovascular Disease



Committee on The Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (2010). Statement on Estimating The Mortality Burden of Particulate Air Pollution at the Local Level. COMEAP.

DEFRA (2011). The air quality strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: Volume 1. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Public Health England, (2014). Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution.

DEFRA (1995): Part 1V of the Environment Act. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

RBC: 2015 Updating and Screening Assessment  for Reading Borough Council in fulfilment of Part IV of the Environment Act 1995 Local Air Quality Management Reading Borough Council.



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