Agenda item




To receive a verbal update from the Environmental Health Manager on the Air Quality Monitoring in Hitchin.


This has previously been discussed at the Hitchin Area Committee at the meeting of the 28 June 2022 and relevant papers and Minutes can be found here: Agenda for Hitchin Committee on Tuesday, 28th June, 2022, 7.30 pm | North Herts Council (


A verbal update was provided by the Environmental Health Manager regarding Air Quality in Hitchin.


Audio recording – 56 minutes 40 seconds


A verbal update was provided by the Environmental Health Manager regarding Air Quality in Hitchin, which included the following:


·         Due to the Covid pandemic, and staffing issues within the department, it had been 3 years since a representative was able to address the Committee.

·         The draft report circulated to Members had now been confirmed as final by DEFRA.

·         Air quality is not necessarily a local issue, it can depend on the wind flow and North Herts will be impacted by the emissions of other areas, as well as North Herts affecting other areas.

·         Members had previously raised concerns that the air quality monitoring would be stopped in the area, but this was not the case and there was a legal requirement on the Council to monitor.

·         If after a number of years where the monitored emissions amount is less than the guidelines, then the guidance from DEFRA is that the location no longer qualifies to be required for monitoring.

·         The Air Quality Monitoring is a separate requirement under the Environment Act and monitoring of these sites will continue.

·         There were two ways in which the Council monitored air quality. Firstly, through Automated Plants, but these were coming to the end of their expected life and there would be additional costs if monitoring was still required at these sites.

·         Secondly, was via Passive Diffusion Tubes, which were stuck on lampposts around the district and were changed manually by Officers. These will continue until legislation changes and these are no longer required. The location of these are reviewed frequently and there is a review ongoing now by Environmental Health Officers.

·         No other areas in the district had ever breached the threshold for air quality pollution.

·         If Members had a specific area they wanted to be monitored, they could inform the Environmental Health team and this could be explored, though not all sites would be suitable.


The following Members asked questions:


·         Councillor Richard Thake

·         Councillor Clare Billing

·         Councillor James Denselow

·         Councillor Ian Albert


In response to questions, the Environmental Health Manager advised:


·         The requirement to monitor, but the lack of capacity to insist on changes, had not changed, other than where there was a specific local cause of the problem.

·         The district Council has the requirement to monitor, but County were responsible for the Highways and there were link roads running outside of the area.

·         As part of the recently adopted Local Plan there were considerations and requirements placed on developers to require them to monitor air quality, before during and after construction. 

·         Where the district Council had the ability to control road traffic, it was usually in places where there was insufficient traffic for the Council to make an influential difference.

·         With planning applications where there is a foreseeable air quality issue, the Environmental Health team are consulted and will provide a response.

·         It was not possible for the district Council to impose conditions around schools to prevent car idling, as the Highways were a County issue. The district Council can make representations to County to encourage this.

·         Where schools in adopt the campaign they encourage students to remind parents of the dangers, and this is something that could be supported by the district Council, but it could not be imposed.

·         He was unsure of the cost of a single air quality monitoring station.

·         When previous equipment was installed there was not a repair contract included with these. This would be included for future contract procurement, so that expenditure would be planned, rather than one off payments.

·         The EcoStars scheme was developed by another Local Authority and North Herts pay a small royalty to be part of the scheme. TRL had been sourced to liaise with businesses and commercial enterprises which have a vehicle fleet, which are generally diesel van fleets. The scheme will then present policies which can be adopted to reduce costs for the business, as well as reducing emissions, through training and development.

·         All relevant contracts that North Herts hold have been approached and more are joining the scheme.

·         The scheme itself was a star based system, with 1 being lowest and 5 being highest. One company had reached 5 star status, with many others regularly performing at 4 star level.

·         He was not personally aware of any key locations for air quality monitoring, but could provide Members with some background information, on top of that included within the most recent report. The air pollution across the district was relatively low compared to neighbouring authorities.

·         The A1 rarely caused pollution issues, but the A1 roundabout outside Letchworth may be a good monitoring site, due to traffic build up in this area, as would the roads out of Hitchin towards Letchworth.

·         Due to Covid the EcoStars scheme did not start until 2022 and was due to run through to February 2023. There was a quarter 4 report due soon from TLR and specific information could be requested by Members to included in this.

·         Future attendance would depend on staffing issues within the department, but it was hoped a regular update could be provided at future meetings with relevant notice.