Homes on one of Wales’ most polluted streets should be knocked down to meet air quality targets in the shortest possible time, Caerphilly County Borough Council bosses have recommended.
The council has drawn up its preferred option for tackling air pollution on the A472 in Crumlin, where nitrogen dioxide levels have been recorded as the highest in the UK outside central London.
A final plan, to be considered by councillors next week, recommends buying and demolishing 23 houses and businesses at Woodside Terrace, Woodside Shops and Yr Adfa to help meet air quality targets by 2022 – a year earlier than previously predicted.
The homes would be purchased at 150% of their market value, to ensure residents can buy similar properties elsewhere in the borough.
A home loss payment, which is 10% of the original market value, will also be offered to residents.
Previously concerns were expressed that residents would not be fully compensated for the loss of their homes, before the Welsh Government provided a funding promise.
Under the scheme, the owner of a property valued at £70,000 would receive around £112,000, as well as any reasonable disbursements.
Council bosses have recommended this option is favoured over an alternative ‘do minimum’ approach, which relies on greener vehicles reducing pollution levels over time.
A council report said this option was not favoured in a public consultation, with 49 out of 53 respondents disagreeing.
Many disagreed because of their “poor quality of life” caused by traffic and congestion on the street, the report says.
More residents favoured the demolition option, though views were also mixed, with 22 agreeing and 30 against the plan.
Welsh Government has tasked the council with meeting air quality targets “in the shortest timescale possible.”
Ministers could challenge a ‘do minimum’ approach, which would meet air guidelines by 2025, the Welsh Government has warned.
The council hopes homes can be purchased by reaching agreements with residents, though a compulsory purchase process is planned alongside this, to avoid any delays.
The council’s cabinet are due to decide which option to pursue at a meeting next Wednesday (June 26).
A report set to go before councillors says: “Welsh Government’s confirmation of the availability of funding serves to address cabinet’s previously expressed concern that residents should not be placed in financial hardship.
“It is therefore proposed that purchase (at 150% of the valuation), demolition of the properties and realignment of the footpath is confirmed as the preferred option.”
Leader of the council, Cllr Dave Poole, said: “The council has always maintained that we must put the interests of Hafodyrynys residents first.
“This proposal really is a ‘win-win’ situation for all concerned and we are pleased that the Welsh Government has responded to our calls for funding to provide residents with a fair financial package.”
Cllr Eluned Stenner, cabinet member for the Environment and Public Protection, said: “One of the major concerns of the residents was that the market valuation of their properties was significantly less than what they felt was a fair price to enable them to move home.
“We fully recognise that health and wellbeing is paramount, but we also did not want to see any of the residents facing financial difficulties as a result of the compulsory purchase process.”
“We welcome these proposals and would like to thank the community for their co-operation and feedback in helping us reach this proposed way forward.”
The council is required to submit its final approved plan to the Welsh Government by June 30.