PROTESTERS turned out in Otley last weekend to highlight concerns over local air quality.

The demonstration by Otley Green party members took place at the main town centre traffic lights early on Saturday, November 25.

The action follows the group's monitoring of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions on the roads in the Manor Square, Kirkgate and Beech Hill/Westgate areas earlier this year.

That six month exercise, carried out from February to July, produced samples that were independently tested by the West Yorkshire Analytical Laboratory.

The results showed average NO2 levels for the period to be highest on Beech Hill/Westgate, where there were 49 micrograms per cubic metre of air.

Campaigners say that even after being corrected for seasonal variation the Beech Hill data showed levels of NO2 comparable to parts of central Leeds.

The Otley protest was timed to take place before next week's Leeds State of the City Conference, which will decide air quality improvement measures for the whole city.

Otley Town Councillor Mick Bradley (Green, Danefield), who joined the action, said: "This is why we felt it necessary to hold a demonstration.

"We also wanted to highlight positive measures, such as having correct tyre pressures and switching off engines at lights, which drivers - that means all of us - can take to reduce vehicle emissions which pollute our air."

Leeds has been branded one of the five worst cities in England for air pollution levels.

Nationally, air pollution causes an estimated 40,000 early deaths every year in the UK and last year was declared a 'public health emergency' by MPs.

Cllr Bradley says Otley should be part of any Leeds plans to improve air quality.

He added: "We should be aiming for measures that require slow, steady traffic movement rather than constant stop-start, and a reduced flow of vehicles through Otley.

"Also driving at a steady speed without excessive acceleration gives optimum fuel consumption and the lowest emissions."

He is also urging residents to try the safer cycling routes around Otley - promoted recently along with a map leaflet by the Town Council - as an alternative for local trips.

The maps can be picked up from the Otley Core, on Orchard Gate, and Otley Library.

Otley Green Party, meanwhile, plans to carry out more air quality monitoring on Bridge Street and over Otley Bridge, where queuing traffic is common.