Air pollution in Windsor and Maidenhead 'exceeded safe limits' during heatwave

Shay Bottomley

Campaigners are urging residents to sign a petition after levels of pollutants exceeded ‘safe levels’ set out by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during July’s heatwave.

Last week, the highest ever temperatures were recorded in Britain, with two monitoring sites in the Royal Borough recording levels of nitrogen dioxide higher than the WHO’s safe limits.

Furthermore, levels of PM10 (inhalable particles with diameters that are approximately 10 micrometres and smaller) almost breached the safe limit.

Although the borough does not measure ozone levels, neighbouring boroughs to the east of Windsor saw ozone levels exceed WHO limits on seven consecutive days after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a national ozone air pollution alert on July 18.

Thomas Wigley, a Windsor resident and a member of the Maidenhead Great Park group, has called for further action to be taken by the Royal Borough.

He said: “Our Government and the Royal Borough recognise air pollution as a major health risk, ranking alongside cancer, heart disease and obesity. It shortens lives and damages quality of life.

“The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead’s air pollution monitoring is very limited, but where health damaging pollutants are measured at Frascati Way in Maidenhead and at Clarence Road in Windsor, the heatwave pushed nitrogen dioxide levels dangerously high.

“Ozone is a gas which is damaging to human health and can trigger inflammation of the respiratory tract, eyes, nose and throat, as well as asthma attacks. Ozone can also have adverse effects on the environment through oxidative damage to vegetation, including crops.

“Our council doesn’t currently measure ozone, but at nearby Hillingdon and Harlington, ozone levels consistently exceeded the WHO limit during the heatwave.

“Pollution drifts, and Maidenhead and Windsor are both under flight paths and close to major motorways, so it’s likely they were also affected by it.

“One of our council’s declared Corporate Plan objectives is to achieve National Air Quality Objectives in all five Air Quality Management Areas in the Borough, but there are 10 different pollutants and the Borough currently only measures two of them.”

He added that the council’s environmental and climate strategy ‘recognises the need to reduce air pollution to reduce inequality for those who are disproportionately impacted by pollution’, but added that this was being contradicted by the proposed development on Maidenhead Golf Course.

A petition to the council to ‘increase measurements of air polluting and health damaging particulates’ has been launched by campaigners. To view it, visit: 

A council spokesperson said: “We have a programme of measures in place to reduce the impact of emissions on local air quality. These form an integral part of the Local Transport Plan.

“While it’s possible to monitor for several different pollutants, our air quality monitoring network is specific to the main sources of pollution in the local area. The main local source of pollution is road traffic and NO2 has been the primary pollutant of concern.

“Frascati Way is on the A308 is one of the main arterial roads in the borough. It is also close to Maidenhead town centre where major construction works are underway, so is monitored as an area likely to see the highest levels of pollution in the borough. No exceedances of the PM10 objective level have been recorded. The recorded annual mean concentration in 2018 and 2019 was 22.8µg/m3, well below the objective level of 40µg/m3.  NO2 levels are measured at Clarence Road, Windsor and this is below the objective level of 40µg/m3.

“The council is taking a number of steps to address PM2.5 particulates including promoting workplace, school and personalised travel planning, improving facilities for cycling and walking, promoting bus services, the implementation of a scheme for Maidenhead station interchange and a trial of new electric vehicle charge points.

“The evidence base for the Borough Local Plan included a detailed strategic air quality study which identified that taking into account changes over time, such as the shift to electric vehicles and other measures to encourage sustainable travel, there would ultimately be no adverse impacts arising. As part of the planning application process, the Borough Local Plan requires that developers should show how they have considered air quality impacts at the earliest stage possible. This may give rise to a need to implement development-specific mitigation measures to ensure that localised adverse air quality impacts do not occur in the short/medium term.”

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