Friday, 20 July 2018

Ban on lorries would improve town air quality

A WEIGHT restriction could be introduced on Henley Bridge to help improve air quality in the town.

A WEIGHT restriction could be introduced on Henley Bridge to help improve air quality in the town.

South Oxfordshire District Council is considering the idea following the results of its latest report on air quality.

The figures show that five sites exceeded Air Quality England’s nitrogen dioxide level objective of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre and that four of them recorded higher pollution levels than the previous year.

Duke Street had the second worst nitrogen dioxide levels in South Oxfordshire with an average annual reading of 59.8 mcm, 1.3 mcm more than the previous year.

The chemical is associated with vehicle exhaust fumes and can irritate the lungs and eyes.

Four of the other 14 Henley sites also exceeded their objectives, including two sites in Bell Street (43.9 mcm and 43.3 mcm, an increase of 2.7 mcm and 1.3 mcm compared with 2011), Greys Road (43.5 mcm, a decrease of 0.1 mcm) and Reading Road (40.1 mcm, an increase of 2 mcm).

Claire Spendley, air quality officer for the council, said there was a general increase in nitrogen dioxide levels across the district in both roadside and background locations. She said restricting the access of heavy goods vehicles to Henley would be one way of improving air quality and suggested limiting access to the most polluted streets and encouraging businesses to voluntarily restrict access at peak times.

The Henley air quality management area could also be extended to include sites where high readings of nitrogen dioxide have been recorded.

Dave McEwen, chairman of Henley in Transition, welcomed her suggestions.

He said: “The main pollution problem is caused by HGVs and if the council is actually going to do something that would reduce the numbers coming into the town that would be a good thing but it is whether they get on and do it.”

Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin, vice-chairman of Henley Town Council’s traffic advisory committee, said she would like signs put up by the Burchetts Green roundabout near Maidenhead stating that no HGVs are allowed through Henley except for deliveries.

She said: “I am not surprised that we haven’t had any improvement in air quality. I am glad that the district council seems to have picked up the baton and I am pleased they are starting to think about this because it it important.”

Other “ongoing projects” listed in the district council’s action plan for Henley include encouraging out-of-town parking, improving cycling facilities, re-routing buses and introducing signage to encourage drivers to turn off their car engines when waiting at traffic lights.

Half of the air quality sites in Watlington also exceeded their objectives — two sites in Shirburn Street (53.4 and 43.8 mcm, a decrease of 2 mcm and an increase of 7.3 mcm on the previous year) and two sites in Couching Street (52.7 and 52.5 mcm, an increase of 0.8 mcm and 2.8).

Keith Lovelace, chairman of campaign group WATNEXT, said: “The statistics focus attention on the urgency of the matter. We can’t hang around waiting for another 10, 15 or 20 years, we need to act now and look for short-term solutions, whether it is easing congestion on the roads or trying to stop HGVs passing through the town.”

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