Local climate activists marked National Clean Air Day on 15 June with criticisms of the government’s draft plan for tackling air quality “Improving air quality in the UK: Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities”.

 According to climate charity Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC), the government’s proposals are far too modest, and the timetable too slow.

Traffic in Chesil Street by Phil Gagg “Official estimates are 40,000 early deaths a year as a result of air pollution – an estimated 50 in Winchester District alone” said Phil Gagg who drafted the response on behalf of WinACC’s Transport Action Group. “It is disappointing that the government still has no firm proposals for action. And the government is focussing much too narrowly. Nitrogen dioxide is important, but we need to reduce deadly particulates (PMs) and the carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming at the same time.”

The group also criticised the government for not including some of the towns and places with the worst problems in its list of areas for action. They were especially disappointed that neither Winchester nor Eastleigh have been identified, despite patches of very high pollution in both.

WinACC has been working with Winchester City Council on its new Air Quality Action Plan which has recently been approved. In their response to the Government, WinACC pointed out that nationally-led action to cut motorway pollution should be linked to work led locally. Winchester City Council should get resources to work with Highways England to tackle the high levels of pollution on the M3 motorway to the east of Winchester. “This may damage the health of people who use the M3 to commute to work in Winchester, as well as those who live in Winnall and who shop at Tesco. We even need to take it into account when designing the new leisure centre proposed for Bar End”, said Phil Gagg. 

According to WinACC, the government paper fails to state the results of research about what will be most effective to improve air quality, or to recommend solutions. The government should give funding to help local authorities, not just pass responsibility over to them. Both Winchester City Council and Hampshire need funding to pay for changes to reduce traffic in Winchester Town. 

WinACC now invites people to a meeting on 1 July to consider how to make it easier and more pleasant to move round Winchester town, and what we can learn from other places following the public meeting on Tuesday 13 June "Movement in Winchester: Learning from Oxford". “Join us to share ideas and see whether we agree!” said Chris Holloway, who organised the meeting which is on Saturday 1 July, 10.30am-12.00 (10.00 for tea/coffee) at St Lawrence's Parish Room, Colebrook St, Winchester SO23 9LH.  

The response and the meetings are part of WinACC’s contribution to Hampshire Clean Air Month, launched by BREATHE for better air, transport, health and environment. BREATHE Hampshire makes people more aware of the problems caused by air pollution and to press for action to reduce emissions from motor vehicles. Anyone who wants to use the BREATHE slogan, name or logo should contact BREATHE@winacc.org.uk. More information on the website WinACC.org.uk/BREATHE.

 Photo: traffic in Winchester (credit Phil Gagg)

Notes to Editors:

  1. Full text of the WinACC response is at http://winacc.org.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/WinACC%20AirQualGov%20response%202017_06_15.pdf
  2. The government draft plan “Improving air quality in the UK: Tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities” is at http://marketing.est.org.uk/N26-4X5N5-OEG5AB-2M0RM4-1/c.aspx
  3. For further information visit winacc.org.uk/BREATHE or call Chris Holloway, WinACC Director on  07779 283451.
  4. Winchester Action on Climate Change Ltd is a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales with company registration no. 08013043. Our registered office is University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR. We are also a registered charity in England and Wales with charity no 1150754.

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