Friday, 20 October 2017

Shops sign up to shut their doors to keep out air pollution

SIXTY businesses in Henley are now supporting a campaign to persuade shops to close their doors to save energy and protect staff and customers from air pollution.

Environmental campaign groups Henley in Transition and Clean Air for Henley have asked retailers to take part in the national Close the Door campaign, which was launched in Cambridge five years ago and has since expanded to seven other towns and cities.

The organisers have so far visited almost 90 shops in Reading Road, Duke Street and Bell Street with two-thirds supporting the campaign.

Many traders have said they are happy to display a sticker in their window explaining to customers why the doors are closed and that the business is still trading. David Dickie, a member of Henley in Transition, has been pursuing the idea in a bid to improve air quality in the town centre, where the levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide are up to one-and-a-half times the maximum safe limit recommended by Air Quality England.

He said: “I’ve got so many anecdotal stories with people talking about dirt, noise and pollution from the traffic.

“I’m just overwhelmed by their interest that Henley should improve so their prospects can improve. It’s really uplifting.

“I thought one or two people might say something but only one or two have said ‘I don’t want to talk about this’.”

He added: “Crew Clothing have now agreed that the shop in Henley should close their door — there’s buses with running engines right outside.”

Clean Air for Henley have also produced a new leaflet which it plans to deliver to all homes in the town this week and in the coming days to coincide with National Clean Air Day yesterday (Thursday).

It asks residents to adopt different behaviours to reduce pollution and includes a request to stop buying diesels when residents buy their next vehicle.

Mr Dickie said: “I’m amazed by how many people think that diesel is still a good thing, which is not true. One thing is to raise awareness because it gets people thinking about walking and cycling. It’s a question of education, which South Oxfordshire District Council have a responsibility for, and it’s to change people’s attitude to a carbon-free world.”

Mr Dickie gave the example of campaign supporter Peter Stone, of Blandy Road, who had just bought an electric car — a Nissan Leaf — and uses solar panels attached to his home to charge the vehicle.

The leaflet also warns of the risks posed by particulates, which are damaging to people’s health, particularly children, when inhaled.

It also encourages people to leave a gap if they are in a car behind a diesel vehicle stopped in traffic, to help fumes escape, and wants drivers to switch off their engine at every opportunity.

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