Surrey Heath Borough Council Executive have approved an Outline Business Case to enable the Blackwater Valley partnership to move forward with improving air quality on the A331.

In July 2017 the Government published The National Air Quality Plan for Nitrogen Dioxide, which sets out how the Government will ensure that compliance with air quality limits is achieved in the shortest time possible.

A key part of the Plan is a requirement on local authorities identified as having predicted exceedances of the statutory annual mean EU limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) within their areas, to undertake feasibility studies to explore a range of measures to reduce those levels and therefore improve air quality.

Surrey Heath Borough Council, Guildford Borough Council and Rushmoor Borough Council were directed by the Secretary of State for the Environment to submit a feasibility study for reducing the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide along the Blackwater Valley (A331) Road in the shortest time possible.

The Plan identified a straight-line exceedance on a short section of the A331 Blackwater Valley Relief Road, within Surrey Heath Borough, as having predicted exceedances of the EU Ambient Air Quality Directive limits of NO2.

The study has been completed by the Blackwater Valley Partnership, made up of the three Borough Councils, Surrey County Council and Hampshire County Council.

At the SHBC Executive meeting on 11 December, approval of the Outline Business Case (OBC) was given prior to submission to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) by 31 December 2018.

The OBC identified a preferred measure to achieve compliance with the NO2 levels – a 50mph speed limit for a stretch of the A331 in the areas of Rushmoor Borough Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council. The stretch of road currently has a speed limit of 70mph.

The proposals and OBC have also been agreed by the other councils in the Blackwater Valley Partnership.

Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Environment and Health, Cllr Vivienne Chapman, said: “Improving air quality within the Borough is a priority for the Council and the collaborative work that the Blackwater Valley Group have completed to determine a measure which will reduce nitrogen dioxide levels along the A331 is a positive step towards achieving this.

“Air pollution has a significant impact on public health and implementation of a speed reduction on this road will contribute to better air quality within the Borough, making Surrey Heath a healthier place in which to live, work and visit.”

The work done so far on developing the feasibility study has been funded by a grant from the Joint Air Quality Unit (JAQU) of Defra and the Department for Transport (DfT).

Following approval of the OBC by the Secretary of State for the Environment, and their agreement to fund the proposed measures, the next step would be statutory public consultation by Hampshire and Surrey County Councils as the relevant Highways authorities.

The approximate cost of implementing the measures in the OBC is £450,000, and will be implemented subject to approval and full funding from JAQU.