Air pollution levels in some areas of High Wycombe are more than 70 per cent above the national target, the Bucks Free Press can reveal.

Wycombe District Council is targeting areas 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.

The worst exceedance in High Wycombe was found to be 69.5 microgrammes per cubic metre at Wycombe Abbey School’s accommodation block, alongside Marlow Hill – 72.5 per cent above the government’s target of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre.

The worst exceedance in Marlow was found to be 48 microgrammes per cubic metre at Chapel Street – 20 per cent higher than the national target – while the most marginal result in High Wycombe was 40 microgrammes per cubic metre at the junction of West Wycombe Road and Victoria Street.

However at a press briefing this week, WDC’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Julia Adey, said the air quality along the stretch of the M40 that passes through the district had improved after an Air Quality Management Area was declared by the council in 2001. 

Councillors decided to reduce the size of the M40 AQMA as a result of the improvements, at the cabinet meeting on Monday.

The new proposed AQMAs are subject to public consultation, which is expected to start in October, and a steering group made up of key stakeholders will be set up following the consultation.

Council bosses said the group could include Bucks County Council, as it looks after highways, various departments in WDC, and business groups, as “essential partners”.

WDC’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Julia Adey, said: “We have a statutory obligation to monitor the air quality in our area.

“[It is] something we take very seriously, which is why we plan to declare two Air Quality Management Areas in High Wycombe and Marlow to improve the air quality for our residents.

“We will be asking residents to tell us if they feel the proposed AQMAs are adequate or whether they think they should be extended to cover a wider area to enable us to draw up a plan to bring nitrogen dioxide levels back below the national target.”

She said improvement measures could potentially include new cycling networks, adding electrical charging points around the district to encourage the use of hybrid and electrical cars, and retrofitting older buses to ensure they have green engines.

Speaking about the Local Plan at the press briefing, which will see more than 10,000 new homes, and potentially thousands more cars, come to the Wycombe district by 2033, Cllr Adey said contingency plans were in place to help manage air pollution levels.

She 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 major projects will not be put in place until the action plan has been drawn up and approved.”

“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.”

Residents will be able to access the plans and see the AQMAs on Wycombe District Council's website once they are made public.