Greens accuse Council of ‘spin’ over Bearsden air pollution levels

Green MSP Ross Greer at Bearsden Cross
Green MSP Ross Greer at Bearsden Cross

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer has accused East Dunbartonshire Council of “spin” in their response to pollution concerns at Bearsden Cross.

Last week, the Herald revealed air pollution levels continued to rise “significantly” in the area after new analysis. The two toxic pollutants analysed, NO2 and particulate matter (PM10), are both caused by fossil-fuel engines.

Friends of the Earth 
described the latest findings as “shameful” and Mr Greer, who lives in Bearsden, hit out at the council for refusing to explore making Drymen Road a Low Emission Zone.

The council responded this week, with Councillor Billy Hendry, convener of Place, Neighbourhood & Corporates Assets, stating the annual mean levels of the two pollutants were within the legal limit.

But Mr Greer said the council was using carefully worded technicalities “to distract from their lack of urgency in tackling air pollution at Bearsden Cross.”

Councillor Hendry said: “The air quality around Bearsden Cross has been continuously monitored since 2006 and an area of Bearsden was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2011 due to exceedances of the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM10) annual mean.

“In line with Scottish Government guidance, an Air Quality Action Plan was consulted upon and published, proposing 29 measures aimed at helping to reduce pollutant levels around Bearsden Cross.

“Since declaration, the annual mean NO2 and PM10 levels have declined considerably and 2017 saw a further reduction in pollutant levels.

“The data for 2018 showed Bearsden area was 18% and 22% below the objectives for NO2 and PM10 respectively while the 2019 provisional data for NO2 indicates the emission recorded is 10% below the strategy objectives and 39% below the objectives for PM10.

“Improving air quality is a council priority and we will continue to work towards improvements where possible. The council continues to engage with heavy goods vehicles and bus operators in its area to sign up to the Eco-stars Fleet Management Programme.

“The Eco-stars Fleet Recognition Scheme aims to help fleet operators improve efficiency, reduce fuel consumption and emissions, make cost savings and reduce their environmental impact. People can play their part by ensuring they reduce unnecessary journeys by car, walk or cycle more and switch off their engines whilst stationary. If we all work together, we can continue to help improve air quality not just across Bearsden but all East Dunbartonshire.”

But Mr Greer responded: “East Dunbartonshire Council are using carefully worded technicalities to distract from their lack of urgency in tackling air pollution at Bearsden Cross.

“The yearly average for NO2 is indeed within the legal limit but that’s not the problem here. The legal maximum is still being regularly breached and even the average has shown little improvement in the last six years.

“For 49 hours in 2019 the NO2 limit was breached, with much of that coinciding with times children will be going in and out of Bearsden Primary.

“That’s the highest number of breaches since recording began in 2006.

“Talking about yearly averages is of no help to children or parents at the Cross during one of these spikes.

“Instead of spinning so hard the council should join residents and myself in delivering solutions which will actually tackle this public health problem, like rerouting heavy goods vehicles.”