Houses on one of Wales’ most polluted streets will be demolished to meet air quality targets following approval from Caerphilly County Borough Council.
Nitrous dioxide levels on the A472 in Hafodyrynys were higher than anywhere except central London in 2015 and 2016, prompting calls for action on a local and national level.
Twenty-three homes in Woodside Terrace, Yr Adfa and Woodside shops will be knocked down to allow for a realignment of Hafodyrynys Road and comply with requirements by 2022.
The council will buy the properties for 50% above the market rate, with the Welsh Government agreeing to fund the estimated £5 million demolition costs.
Council leader Dave Poole said on Thursday: “The residents will leave with enough money to buy compatible properties and will be able start a new life.
“I think we’ve arrived at the right decision, and I’m sure the people of Hafodyrynys will thank us for it.”
Cabinet members were initially opposed having raised concerns that residents could be left in financial hardship if the council could not offer market value for their properties.
In March, they favoured a ‘do minimum’ approach which relied on vehicle emissions improving without the need for local intervention, bringing compliance by 2025.
But with most residents supportive of the proposals, and Welsh Government support guaranteed, the council’s cabinet backed the proposals on Thursday.
The meeting heard that 18 of the 23 affected residents were notified of the plans to proceed on Wednesday evening.
Some residents, along with opposition councillors and the wider public, had been heavily critical of the council’s initial ‘do minimum’ approach, which the Welsh Government described as “unviable”.
Cllr Poole said: “We have been criticised but we did not want to push some young families with children into negative equity.
“We didn’t want to push some older residents who are mortgage-free into rented properties or taking out a new mortgage.
“Some of the comments have not been very nice on social media but I suppose it’s the sign of the times – these keyboard warriors think they can do what they like.”
Cllr Eluned Stenner, cabinet Member for the environment and public protection, said: “We thank Welsh Government for their support on what has been a very complex and emotive issue, not least for those residents directly affected by the air quality issues in Hafodyrynys.
“There is more work to do in terms of further modelling in accordance with the air quality direction, but I’m sure the news that this long-standing issue is reaching a conclusion for the affected residents will be warmly welcomed.”
Cllr Colin Mann, leader of the council’s Plaid Cymru group, had previously said the Labour administration’s message to residents was to “carry on breathing in poisonous air as it may get better in a few years’ time”.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Mann welcomed the cabinet’s decision, saying: “The majority of residents don’t want to live in those awful conditions, and I don’t think we should expect them to.
“Where the cabinet went wrong is not making this decision in the first place instead of hoping that another solution was going to come along instead of attacking the issue.”
The Welsh Government has been contacted for comment.