Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Concerns raised over no air quality monitoring in power station towns in Mid & East Antrim
Two East Antrim towns where power stations are located have not had air quality monitored since the late 2000s.
The issue was highlighted at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Direct Services Committee on Tuesday evening.
Knockagh Ulster Unionist Councillor Andrew Wilson noted the only two air pollution monitors in Mid and East Antrim are located in Ballymena, in Ballykeel estate and at Linenhall Street in the town centre.
The facility in Ballykeel monitors particulates associated with burning solid fuel and at Linenhall Street, nitrogen dioxide associated with traffic pollution is measured.
Ballykeel had the fifth highest levels of benzo pyrene, a compound that can be found in coal tar, in the United Kingdom in 2017.
Commenting on air quality monitors, Cllr Wilson said: “There are none in the Ballylumford and Kilroot areas. I would ask for emissions testing across the borough. We do not know what our air quality is like in parts of Kilroot and Larne.”
Previously, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council dismissed the need for inclusion of Larne and Carrickfergus as part of the Northern Ireland air quality monitoring network.
The council said monitoring in Larne and Carrickfergus ceased in the late 2000s due to “continued low levels of pollution”.
Instead, the council recommended that the “current approach of targeting monitoring on relevant locations identified by evidence and informed judgement”.
The report to elected members noted: “Whilst we agree in principle to expanding an appropriately funded air quality monitoring network, this should be undertaken using evidence and judgement in consultation with councils as opposed to the crude approach of population scale.”
Cllr Wilson was commenting on a Climate and Sustainability Project update which deals with local government’s role within the new climate change legislation.
The Climate Change Act 2022 (Northern Ireland) came into effect in June. A report to councillors said the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Department for the Economy and Department for Infrastructure want to engage with local government on its role in helping to meet the requirements of the Act.
The council says it has achieved 15 of its 17 environmental objectives. These include the planting of 58,000 trees and plans to install new solar panels at the Amphitheatre in Carrickfergus, Larne Leisure Centre and Ballymena Household Recycling Centre, which account for one fifth of the council’s energy consumption, in a bid to cut the authority’s electricity bill of £1m per annum.
Remote working and use of digital technology resulted in a reduction of business mile expenditure of 75 per cent during the pandemic in 2020/21 and by 60 per cent in 2021/22 compared to pre-Covid 2019/20, councillors were told.
The council has also estimated savings expected from a switch to LED lighting at a number of locations. These include Larne Leisure Centre where there could be a potential saving of £35,364; Carrickfergus Amphitheatre, £11,349, Ecos, Ballymena, £6,269 and Carrickfergus skate park, £4,959.