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DEFRA approves new AQMA at Keycol Hill in Sittingbourne

Published Thursday 17 December, 2020
Last updated on Thursday 17 December, 2020

Swale Borough Council is working to improve air quality for residents living in Keycol Hill in Sittingbourne after a new Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) was approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The council reported the new AQMA at Keycol Hill to DEFRA earlier this year after data showed nitrogen dioxide levels (NO2) reached 55.5 µg m³ which is above the national target of 40µg m³.

The pollution is primarily being caused by heavy traffic, an uphill gradient that produces more emissions, and a tree canopy that slows the dispersal of pollutants.

Now declared by DEFRA, the council will work with KCC and other partners to come up with plans to improve the air quality within the AQMA which runs along Keycol Hill from the A249 to Rook Lane.

The existing AQMA at St Paul’s Street in Sittingbourne has also been amended to include particulate matter (PM10) after the monitoring stations registered an increase in pollution levels.

St Paul’s Street AQMA was already in place due to NO2 levels, but further observations found that levels of PM10 exceeded 50 μgm-3 for 42 days in 2019 – the national target is 35 days or less.

Cllr Tim Valentine, cabinet member for the environment at the council, said:

“It is our duty as a local authority to monitor air quality across the borough and declare AQMAs if nationally set limits are exceeded.

“Declaring AQMAs at St Paul’s Street and Keycol Hill will now allow us to research and implement effective measures that can improve the air quality for everybody that lives and works in these areas.

“We’re working hard to improve air quality across the borough and have a strategic air quality management action plan in place that was approved by DEFRA in September 2019.

“Many of the measures outlined in the plan will be relevant to Keycol Hill, and we’re also in the process of investigating additional measures to help reduce the pollution levels.

“We already have an air quality action plan in place which aims to tackle NO2 in St Paul’s Street, and we’ll now carry out further research into the cause of the increase in PM10 to understand how we can tackle them.

“To do this, we’ll commission two research projects to gather evidence that will identify targeted measures to reduce the PM10 levels. This plan will work alongside the current one that tackles NO2 levels.

“Air quality is a priority for us. We want clean air for local people and their families and will continue to work hard to reduce pollution across the borough.”

For more information air quality around the borough visit