A six-week public consultation on plans to tackle poor air quality in the Wycombe district - amid the revelation that pollution in some areas is more than 70 per cent above the national target - has started. 

As part of the consultation, residents and businesses will be able to give their views on the size and coverage of two new proposed air quality management areas in High Wycombe and Marlow and how they might affect them.

Wycombe District Council is also asking for views on changes to an existing air quality management area along the M40, which they say has resulted in some improvements to air quality due to lower vehicle emissions since it was introduced in 2004.  

Cabinet agreed two new Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in High Wycombe and Marlow after the council’s annual air quality report showed levels of nitrogen dioxide along some busy roads had exceeded government objectives.

Cabinet member for environment, Cllr Julia Adey, said: “Now we know that the air quality in these areas needs to be improved, we want to act quickly to bring the nitrogen dioxide levels back below the national target.

"We have a statutory obligation to monitor the air quality in our area – something we take very seriously, which is why we plan to declare two new air quality management areas in High Wycombe and Marlow to improve the air quality for our residents.

"During this consultation, we want residents and businesses to tell us if they think that the proposed areas are adequate or if they should be extended and if so why. We also want to hear about any ideas you have that may help us to improve the air quality."

All of the comments made in the consultation will be taken into consideration before formally declaring the air quality management areas by the end of the year.

Once the AQMAs are declared at the end of the year, the council has an obligation to produce an Air Quality Action Plan to bring pollutants below the national objectives.

The plan would see the council applying for government grants and working with its partners to deliver measures to improve air quality along the affected areas.

Improvement measures could potentially include new cycling networks, adding extra electrical charging points around the district to encourage the use of hybrid and electrical cars, and retrofitting buses to ensure they have the greenest engines.

Cllr Adey added: "We are already looking at potential ideas, projects and quick wins we can achieve to reduce air pollution within the designated AQMAs,  but these will not be put in place until the action plan has been drawn up and approved. Hopefully we'll be able to implement the quick wins somewhat sooner.

"However, I’m pleased our partners – including the county council, Highways England and bus companies – have already pledged their support to improve air quality in the district."

For more information about the consultation and to take part, visit www.wycombe.gov.uk/aqmaconsultation or contact the control of pollution team on 01494 421 742.