Hundreds of protestors took to the centre of Cardiff over plans to temporarily allow cars back on to Castle Street.

Demonstrators were angry over Cardiff Council’s plans to allow road traffic back on one of the cities main thoroughfares, after it had been pedestrianised during the pandemic.

The street in the heart of the capital had been closed to traffic to allow outdoor dining as indoor eateries had been closed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

But a meeting of the council’s cabinet yesterday agreed to a return of cars, because data showed the city's air pollution actually increased during the ban.

A council spokesperson said: “The latest modelling, undertaken by expert consultants that specialise in transport and air quality, shows that pollution levels could rise in 34 of 42 streets and key routes into the city, if cars are completely displaced from Castle Street.”

They added: “While the modelled rise in surrounding areas is within legal limits, there are clear concerns that any rise of air pollution in residential areas, in favour of achieving lower levels of pollution on non-residential Castle Street, is one that needed to be carefully considered before Cabinet took any decision.

"This is particularly important as many of these residential areas already have relatively poor levels of air quality.

“There are also concerns around what traffic flow will look like once lockdown has been lifted and things return to normal. If we see an increase of car use, as a result of ongoing social-distancing requirements on public transport, then pollution levels in surrounding residential streets could possibly rise higher than currently projected.

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The council says it wants to gather more data on traffic flow across the city centre as commuters return to work and visitor numbers return to normal after the pandemic.

Yesteday's protest was organised by  environmental groups who are angered by what they say is a lack of consultation on the move.

One demonstrator, Sarah Rees, said there were many young people at their first ever protest because of how strongly they felt about keeping the street car free.

"It was my children’s first demonstration, they’ve loved playing at the castle in the last year. Which is something we would never have done before as the traffic meant it was toxic and unsafe,” she said.

Clare James from Cardiff Green New Deal said: “What we want to see is a stay on this decision whilst a proper consultation with the public takes place because the council’s own consultation to date shows younger people were overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the road closed, whereas over 55s want to reopen.

"It makes no sense at all that the older generation gets to decide the future of those who will bear the consequences of the actions we take today... so we’re holding a people’s assembly to give people an opportunity to air their views and we will deliver those views to the council.”

Gareth Ludkin from Cardiff Friends of the Earth said: “We’re dismayed to see Cardiff council taking a backward step in reducing air pollution in Cardiff city centre, after significant gains have been made in developing active travel routes across the city.

“The closure of Castle Street is not the 'genie in the bottle' solution to air pollution problems in Cardiff, but it must be taken as part of a series of bold clean air initiatives across the city, which includes a clean air zone which seeks to reduce traffic flows and congestion in the city."

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