Why a council plans to bulldoze homes to hit air quality targets

Caerphilly County Borough Council has agreed to purchase and demolish 20 homes and three other buildings beside a busy road at Hafodyrynys on the grounds that it is the quickest way to deal with longstanding air-quality issues in one of Wales’ most polluted streets. The decision follows a 2018 direction from the Welsh government calling on the council to come up with a package of measures to meet the requirements of the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directive.

A report by WSP and Ricardo Energy & Environment came up with a “long list” of proposals for dealing with the issue of idling traffic on the east-west A472, a key link between Pontypool and Crumlin. In addition to demolition, it looked at peak-time HGV bans, realigning bus stops, temporary evacuations of the homes when NO2 limits were breached, and even a “travellator” that would allow vehicles to progress through the most-polluted stretch of road with their engines turned off. Construction of a bypass was considered “lengthy” and did not progress beyond stage two of the process. The travellator did not get past stage one.

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