The Welsh Labour Government’s First Minister Carwyn Jones, who was airily talking about air quality and “sustainable travel ” at First Minister’s Questions in the National Assembly yesterday, received an invitation to better-acquaint himself with the Cogan area.
The invitation came from David Melding – the mild-mannered Conservative AM for South Wales Central – the constituency which includes Penarth – and, for that matter, Cogan.
The air quality in Cogan is so bad that the area continues to be the only AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) anywhere in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The comparative lack of breathable air in Cogan is directly the responsibility of the Labour-run Vale of Glamorgan Council which has – over four years- failed to get air pollution there down to acceptable levels – not that they’ve tried particularly hard.
In the Welsh Assembly yesterday David Melding – never usually an AM to cause offence – rose to say “First Minister I’d invite you to walk though Cogan if you want to really experience poor air quality. It’s quite astonishingly bad there. I walk through Cogan quite frequently. “
Melding went on to say “It’s clear that we need to reduce the number of needless journeys or journeys by single occupant vehicles. There are many quick wins that we can gain and that ought to be other half of our active travel strategy . We’ve got a good law. We need to start to implement it “
The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, however seemed decidedly reluctant to take a stroll through Cogan’s Air Quality Management Area – and evaded giving a response to Melding’s invitation to walk it – or even to talk about it .
Instead he blustered on about the need for what he called a “multi-pronged approach” saying “Where there are immense traffic problems that cannot be resolved by public transport they need to be dealt with. The M4” [which Melding hadn’t mentioned ] “is such an issue. We can’t rely on car-based transport forever. When the franchise “[by now he was talking about the Arriva Trains franchise- which was not a point raised by Melding] “transfers to the Welsh Government we want to make sure that we have better quality rolling stock on Cardiff suburban lines , and the development of the Metro, more light trains in years to come so that communities which perhaps lost their links years ago to the heavy rail network are re-connected by the light rail network.”
The First Minister continued “When it comes to cycling [Melding hadn’t asked about cycling] we are very very keen to make sure that more cities see cycling not just as a recreation but as a mode of transport. Cardiff [Melding hadn’t mentioned Cardiff] has a network of cycle routes . They’re not all connected . Other towns and cities“, he claimed “don’t do so well”.
The First Minister said it was important for many cyclists that “they’re not in the same lanes of traffic – their confidence is not strong enough for them to do that – so we must do more of course through the Active Travel Act to make sure that modes of sustainable travel are promoted”
In his tour d’horizon of “sustainability” however, the First Minister never actually got around to addressing the issue he’d actually been asked about – i.e. Cogan – and its local residents – and its worrying levels of nitrogen dioxide. Instead, the issue was just left hanging in the air.