CASH-strapped county council bosses could be hit with a multi-million pound fine unless they tackle pollution problems in a Bewdley hot spot.

Concerns over the poor air quality levels in Welch Gate could prompt the European Commission to impose a huge financial penalty on the Government, which in turn could be passed on to Worcestershire County Council.

Welch Gate is the second most polluted area in Wyre Forest, behind Horsefair in Kidderminster, and has been part of Worcestershire Regulatory Services’ Air Quality Action Plan – aimed at tackling such issues – for more than a decade.

A council spokesman confirmed that the authority could be left with a fine if measures aimed at bringing pollution levels under control were not successful.

But he added that the penalty had not yet been set and therefore there was no figure or deadline for payment at this stage.

Bewdley Town Councillor Philip Edmundson said: “I understand that the potential fine is significant and could run into the millions.

“Horsefair is the only Wyre Forest area with a higher level of pollution than Welch Gate and, while we don’t want to discourage people from coming to our town, we need to cut the traffic there.

“I know that previously a number of options have been considered but not acted upon. Perhaps the threat of this fine might result in a solution finally being found.”

Previously, the council has considered schemes such as altering the road layout, encouraging traffic on to Bewdley bypass, promote more public transport usage and introduce more parking away from the town centre to address the issues.

An increase to pollution levels in Welch Gate is one of the issues campaigners against Gladman Developments’ planned scheme for land off Lakes Road, are raising as part of their objections.

Rod Stanczyszyn, Chairman of the ‘Say No to Gladman’ group, said: “Welch Gate has been designated as an "Air Quality Management Area" for more than 10 years.

“There was a comprehensive information collecting exercise done between 2008 and 2012 which showed excessive levels of harmful gases on a consistent basis.

“The residents know that traffic numbers have only increased since then and the air quality can hardly have improved. Any increase in traffic from new housing can only make a bad situation worse."

Cllr Marcus Hart, Worcestershire County Council Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways said: "The European Commission has the powers to fine the UK Government for failure to achieve targets set relating to levels of air pollution, and the Government is able to pass all or part of any fines on to local authorities in breach of air quality legislation.

"Worcestershire Regulatory Services monitors air quality on behalf of the district councils, and the options within their Air Quality Action Plan are still relevant.

"We are also refreshing our Local Transport Plan this year and schemes to tackle air quality will feature highly in our area transport strategies."