Action sought over toxic gas levels in Hitchin

Hitchin Hill roundabout, where high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide were found

Hitchin Hill roundabout, where high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide were found - Credit: Archant

ACTION will be taken after toxic gases were discovered in a residential area.

Nitrogen dioxide was found in high quantities in Stevenage Road, Hitchin, after North Herts District Council (NHDC) took out a monitoring exercise.

It is now looking to hold a consultation on how to combat the problem – caused by vehicles and congestion – and has published a report on potential ways to bring the levels down.

A draft action plan, made public this week, suggests a number of measures that could be taken.

One of those is improving cycling infrastructure between Stevenage and Hitchin via an off-carriageway route, as well as improving the cycling network in the town.

And there are suggestions of finding an alternative route for HGVs travelling to Cadwell, Wilbury and Burymead industrial areas.

Ideas also include promoting cycling and walking, engaging with schools, businesses and taxi companies, encouraging uptake of electric vehicles, introducing controlled parking charges, altering bus stop locations and investigating improvements to the road layout.

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Although nitrogen dioxide can be toxic in high doses, the council has reassured people there is no public health concern.

But in the report, it added: “Air pollution has a well understood negative impact on human health and the surrounding environment. Therefore, tackling air pollution is important to prevent ill health, improve health and life expectancies and to benefit our environment and quality of life.

“The elderly and young people and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis are affected most by those pollutants that impact on the lungs and those impacts will also worsen the symptoms suffered by people with heart conditions.”

By law, all local authorities are required to review air quality within their respective areas.

Although NHDC will lead the action plan in Hitchin, it will be implemented alongside the county council.

After consultation with the public, a final plan will be submitted for approval by the district council and, eventually, Central Government.