Growing air-pollution problems in Wales have led to residents fearing the value of their homes could be affected.
Despite reductions in car and lorry traffic in Wales over recent years, more monitoring stations are recording nitrogen dioxide levels in excess of the recommended maximum.
In April a new Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) was designated in part of the well-heeled Cardiff suburb of Llandaff.
At the same time, the existing city-centre AQMA – which originally covered mainly commercial property – was extended to Westgate Street, where hundreds of people live in apartments.
Last week, Vale of Glamorgan councillors agreed that part of Windsor Road, Penarth, be declared an AQMA.
And officers at Monmouthshire council are awaiting further results from areas of Abergavenny and Monmouth where recent measurements have shown nitrogen dioxide straying above the threshold.
Fears that prospective buyers could be deterred if they learn that a property is in an AQMA were raised at a public consultation in Penarth last spring.
“There was some concern that property values may be adversely affected,” says a report by council officers for Vale of Glamorgan’s cabinet.
However, it adds: “There is no evidence to suggest property value within an AQMA will be adversely affected by the declaration of the area.”
Llandaff resident Ann Davies voiced concerns for the health of her two young children when Cardiff council consulted on the AQMA for Llandaff.
“I am also worried that this will have a detrimental effect on the price of my home as it might come up in any future local searches, although nothing came up when I purchased last October,” she said.
John Vesey, Cardiff council’s air quality manager, replied that the standard for nitrogen dioxide had been set at a level which protected the most vulnerable people, such as the young and elderly and people who suffer asthma or bronchitis.
“We don’t routinely add the presence of an AQMA to our land registers,” he said.
“If specifically asked by solicitors or conveyancers processing a property purchase, we will advise appropriately but in my experience such enquiries are infrequent.”
John Powell, owner-occupier of an apartment in Westgate Street, told the Western Mail: “If it’s known to potential buyers that there’s an air quality problem, an unhealthy situation, it’s bound to affect property prices.”
Designation of an AQMA leads to an action plan to tackle the causes of pollution, which usually comes from road traffic. However, this does not guarantee a rapid improvement in air quality, as some Monmouthshire residents have discovered.
An AQMA was declared for Bridge Street in Usk in 2005, followed in 2007 by an AQMA covering Hardwick Hill in Chepstow. A progress report published in April 2013 says: “Air quality within the Usk AQMA and Chepstow AQMA continues to exceed the nitrogen dioxide annual mean objective level at certain locations.”
Air pollution is also a problem in rural Llandeilo, where an AQMA was introduced in 2011.
Officers at Carmarthenshire council believe the only long-term option to bring about a permanent improvement is construction of a bypass road, which would remove through traffic from the main street.
Llandeilo estate agent Jonathan Morgan, of BJP Property, said the AQMA mainly covered commercial property, rather than residential. “It hasn’t really had too much of an effect [on house prices] here, purely because of the area.”
He had sold some residential properties in the area concerned, but house hunters were not particularly concerned about the AQMA designation.
“When they’re doing viewings, people don’t seem to take that on board. There’s information to
suggest that area is affected, but it’s got nice views over the valley.”