Homes on Wales’ most polluted street will be knocked down by the council in a bid to improve long-standing air quality issues, it has been decided.
Caerphilly County Borough Council’s cabinet approved the authority’s final plan for tackling air pollution on the A472 at Hafodyrynys at a meeting today (Wednesday, June 26) – where nitrogen dioxide levels have been recorded as the highest in the UK outside central London.
The plan will see the council purchase 23 of the worst affected properties along the south side of the A472, offering residents 150% of the market value for their homes to ensure they do not suffer financial hardship.
It will allow the council to meet air quality targets in the shortest possible time, by 2022.
Council officer Maria Godfrey told councillors that most residents on the street favour the demolition option, with many complaining about the impact of air quality on their lives.
Ms Godfrey said: “There are one or two who do not want to go because they have got family ties, and no amount of money can change that, but the majority are supportive.”
Christina Harrhy, interim chief executive of the council, said the council will seek to reach agreement with residents over the purchase of their homes, and that compulsory purchases would be “a last resort.”
Opposition councillors had criticised the council for previously favouring an alternative approach relying on vehicle emissions improving over time.
But Cllr Carl Cuss said it was important to protect residents from losing out financially.
Cllr Cuss said: “The reason we went through with this approach was to avoid residents falling into financial hardship.
“If we had taken the recommendation at that time we would have had to offer residents market value for their homes which would not have been acceptable.”
Council leader, Dave Poole, said the plan would improve air quality and homes for residents who would be able to step outside and “take a deep breath” again.
Cllr Poole said: “The council has always maintained that we must put the interests of Hafodyrynys residents first.
“This decision 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 this decision and would like to thank the community for their co-operation and feedback in helping us agree this way forward.”