Monday, 16 July 2018

Air pollution report fails to give any answers, says MP

A REPORT into air pollution in South Oxfordshire is not “not worth the paper it is

A REPORT into air pollution in South Oxfordshire is not “not worth the paper it is printed on”, according to John Howell.

The Henley MP criticised the document written by environmental consultants Ricardo Energy for the district council, saying it made no recommendations to improve air quality in Henley.

Mr Howell said he had met with parish councils across South Oxfordshire before the general election in May to discuss the problem of heavy goods vehicles on the district’s roads. He said: “The thing we all came up with was the fear that if you diverted HGVs from one particular route they would go somewhere else and blight someone else’s life.

“This needs to be looked at on a whole area basis, particularly because one of the areas worse affected is Henley itself. Unless you do that you’re just pushing HGVs and the smog about.

“I think a report that washes its hands of suggesting anything comprehensive for Henley is not worth the paper it is printed on.

“The council ought to ask the consultants to go back and do more work on it.”

The report outlines ways to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates such as soot.

These are the most harmful substances produced by petrol and diesel vehicles. It says vans and HGVs create a “significant” element of transport emissions across the district.

In Henley, the levels of NO2 in parts of Market Place, Bell Street, Duke Street, Hart Street, Greys Road, Friday Street and Reading Road are 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

The document suggests general measures to reduce pollution in South Oxfordshire as a whole, such as promoting “low emission behaviour” by switching off car engines when stationary and encourage use of electric and hybrid cars.

It says developers should be required to invest in cycling and walking facilities as well as charging points for electric vehicles.

Mr Howell said: “Most of the report’s suggestions fall into the ‘nudge’ brand of politics and certainly need to be looked at seriously.

“I am most disappointed with the lack of any firm recommendations from the consultants. We all know that Henley poses a difficult question but I would have expected some firm proposals.

“I am sure the recommendations in the neighbourhood plan will be helpful but I would have expected more work to have been done on tackling the problem in Henley in a constructive way.

“Air quality is a major issue. Across the whole of South Oxfordshire air quality is actually very good but it comes down to a few places such as Wallingford, Watlington and Henley itself where it not up to much.

“The district council is right to consult on a report it has produced but it contributes virtually nothing to sorting out the problems in Henley and in Watlington.”

Stefan Gawrysiak, a town and district councillor, has previously suggested the report’s lack of ideas for Henley was a “glaring omission”. A district council spokesman said: “We understand there is frustration that we weren’t able to find any actions specific to Henley.

“The ‘low emission zone modelling’ carried out by independent air quality experts highlighted that the main problem in Henley is down to local car use.

“Therefore restrictions on large vehicles, such as those proposed for Wallingford and in Watlington, would not bring about any significant benefits to the town.

“This is why we asked residents of Henley to suggest some actions they think could work. We will now work through the suggestions people have made to see if there are any ideas that could make a positive difference.

“The action plan includes many other suggestions which may be more appropriate for Henley and we will continue to explore.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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