Saturday, 19 June 2021

Henley in Transition

OVER the past two years HiT has been busy working on the town’s neighbourhood plan and

OVER the past two years HiT has been busy working on the town’s neighbourhood plan and responding to lengthy consultations on policy issues from Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council. Several of our number spent many hours contributing to working groups and responding to consultations to try to ensure that the neighbourhood plan helps the town move to a more sustainable local economy.

We now need an implementation strategy for the recently ratified Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan that includes infrastructure, air quality and transport. The following is about our achievements and our future plans. There are exciting challenges ahead! Come and join us — there is much for our community to achieve.

Transport strategy group

Having consistently argued through the neighbourhood plan and Oxfordshire’s local transport plan consultations for a Henley transport strategy to be developed, we are very pleased that a comprehensive transport study has been carried out and a transport strategy group set up with two HiT representatives.

Henley Car Club

The club would own or lease electric/hybrid cars thatwould be parked in allocated spaces round the town. The focus would be on areas with the greatest concentration of people and cars.

You would pay a small fee to join the club, then book a car and “pay as you go”. Experience in other areas suggests that each car club car eventually replaces up to 20 individually owned cars, thereby freeing up parking spaces as well as cutting emissions.

Research has shown that this is a viable option for Henley and we are in the process of writing a report for submission to Henley Town Council.

Air quality

It is now generally recognised that air pollution resulting from traffic causes thousands of early deaths in the UK annually.

Henley town centre has a serious air pollution problem so there is a distinct local threat to health. Since 2003 the centre of Henley has been recognised as an air quality management area and has been subject to South Oxfordshire District Council’s air quality action plans in 2007 and 2014.

Unfortunately there have been more plans, reports and consultations than actual successful actions to improve air quality. This is also true in many other towns.

HiT has taken a full and outspoken part in all the consultations and has been working hard to get the relevant authorities to take practical steps to implement the plans and suggested remedies.

We continue to argue this through various forums including the district council and the town council’s traffic advisory committee and transport strategy group.

We thought that a first step had been taken two years ago when, following a presentation by HiT, the town council passed a motion supporting the implementation of a weight restriction traffic regulation order to exclude transiting heavy goods vehicles from passing through the town centre. Unfortunately, this was never translated into action.

We now need to find a way to force real actions. Unfortunately, most of the levers to control traffic are firmly in the hands of one level of government or another. They now hide behind their “funding crisis” to do even less than before.

We have been looking for initiatives that we can implement ourselves or with the help of other bodies in the town and, for example, are currently working with Henley in Bloom to try to introduce some particulate-trapping silver birch saplings into the worst pollution spots in the town.

In spite of all the current reports on the health effects of particulate pollution, the district council is still refusing to take measurements.

Air quality — the future

No one wants politically to tackle the real problem, which is the detrimental effect of all diesel vehicles and the particulates they emit. Studies show that children suffer the most in terms of lung capacity through to final education attainment.

Some time ago the Government thought it would introduce more diesel vehicles as it helps with the CO² story. Now it needs to focus on getting us to buy many fewer. Taxation in the last Budget could have helped.

The London low emission zone strategy states that diesel cars bought before September 2015 will not be allowed in the city from 2020. This strategy is clear and cities worldwide are saying the same thing. We need to make the Henley-long term plan as clear and start the behaviour change journey. We need to:

• Appoint a town councillor to lead the air quality drive

• Begin measuring particulates

• Ensure the transport strategy delivers the right actions

• To ensure developers fund the necessary programme.

Carbon tax

HiT member Ed Atkinson invited a representative of the Citizens Climate Lobby group advocating a new policy on climate change to speak in Henley along with Reading University climate scientist Professor Richard Allan.

It was an excellent evening with 60 or so present and a Henley CCL group was formed from it.

The new policy is for a steadily rising fee placed on greenhouse gases charged at source, such as the oil well or coal mine, and to dividend the money to the populace.

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