The Council has finally produced a draft for an Air Quality Action Plan, which is going out for consultation. We will, of course, be submitting our comments but here is what Henry Stanton, our parliamentary candidate, said about its inadequacies at the Policy & Resources Committee meeting when the Draft Plan was presented:
“The Council is under a statutory obligation to stop the air pollution that has broken legal limits for the last seven years. This plan will not do its job and a close look at this plan makes it clear that the Council does not take the issue of air pollution seriously enough.
Air pollution is taking 750 years of life of our residents every year. It’s the second worst air pollution in Kent. This is a public health emergency and we need action now. The World Health Organisation calls air pollution the world’s “largest single environmental health risk”.
Your report claims “nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is the main pollutant of concern”. But the most serious pollution, the PM 2.5 particles, the ones that get into organs, brains and foetuses, you don’t monitor at all.
These particles have been linked to poorer memory, attention and vocabulary; to below-average performance on intelligence tests; and to delinquent behaviour. Air pollution has also been implicated in developmental disorders ranging from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to autism spectrum disorders. These particles inflame the cells around them and in experiments on mice, the inflammation can be seen a full two months after exposure to air pollution has ended.
Your plan states that there is no safe minimum level for PM2.5 air pollution but that you are under no obligation to monitor it. If you choose not to, you are simply not taking this issue seriously.
I would urge you to commit to a series of monitoring stations around the city that can report on not just nitrogen dioxide but also PM 10 and 2.5 particles, in real time, in the places we know are worst affected, for example outside St Thomas’s Primary school.
The plan is woolly. To look at specifics, statements about rolling out electric charging points in all strategic development sites ring hollow when you’re only planning 10% of spaces in the Station Road West car park to have electric car charging points. Which means that, with a ban on petrol and diesel engine cars arriving in 2040, five years before the car park is even paid for, 90% of spaces won't be fit for purpose.
It’s also hard to take the notion of rolling out charging sites across the district seriously when, with a population of 150,000, you’re currently planning a pathetic 9 points.
Why, if you are actually serious about doing this are you persisting with building a multi-storey car park which will actually increase the number of car parking spaces in Canterbury and will encourage more cars into Canterbury, rather than fewer?
The plan to enhance the cycling and walking network is a good one, if only you would get on with it. There is simply a lack of urgency.
Stagecoach are due to move the bus fleet engines to the Euro 6 standard or better by 2023. India is banning the sale of all combustion engines by 2030, so I think Stagecoach can manage electric sooner than this.
At the very latest, you should have cleaned up the air by 2022, as stated in the DEFRA action plan for the south east. This plan will not achieve this. Really you should be aiming for 2020. Given that the multi-storey car park will increase emissions, as will the proposed Kingsmead development on top of the 10,000 new homes coming, there is no way this plan will get the air pollution to a legal level by then."