Friday, 12 August 2022

How would you reduce air pollution as town expands?

RESIDENTS of Henley are to be asked to help shape the town’s transport strategy for the future.

A public consultation is to be held next year in which ideas will be sought for reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality and encouraging alternative forms of transport to the car.

A draft document, which incorporates the parishes of Remenham and Harpsden, has been written by Henley Deputy Mayor Will Hamilton, Remenham parish and Wokingham borough councillor John Halsall and Patrick Fleming, of the Henley and Leichlingen Twinning Association.

All three are members of the Henley Transport Strategy Group, which has been looking at ways to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.

The document says: “Henley has changed. It is no longer a market town or a ford town, it is a residential and destination town.

“Business has changed materially with the internet, online shopping and out-of-town shopping.

“The traffic study completed by Henley Town Council last year indicated increasing traffic which is causing high levels of air pollution. This needs mitigating with solutions that are welcomed by the town.

“We will shortly have 500 more homes in Henley and the surrounding area and we are looking for your help for your open ideas and views.

“There are no silver bullets. However, a significant number of practical initiatives can be implemented now, or in the near future, which will improve the quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors.”

Henley was declared as an Air Quality Management area in 2003 as parts of the town centre experience above the safe level of nitrogen dioxide particles in the air.

The SCOOT traffic management system was introduced to stop queuing traffic in the town centre at peak times.

However, the group says this has done little to reduce the levels of pollution, so it has come up with a series of possible solutions, including:

l Removing most or all traffic furniture

l Replacing some traffic lights with flat roundabouts

l Reducing the number of right-turns

l Introducing a 20mph limit outside schools

l Prohibiting through traffic in certain areas

l Introducing a one-way system.

The document continues: “Our conjecture is that by adopting a system with continuous but slowly moving traffic not only will traffic be quicker but also have lower pollution.

“Henley’s narrow streets and the canyon effect that they create mean that the pollution is not easily dispersed, particularly in Duke Street.

“At current levels, health is being affected, particularly for vulnerable people with existing breathing problems, such as asthma.”

South Oxfordshire District Council’s Air Quality Action Plan revealed that in 2010 air quality levels exceeded air quality standards by 56 per cent and that buses and heavy goods vehicles made up three per cent of the traffic but produced 33 per cent of the pollution.

The group proposes various measures which could be introduced in conjunction with the district council and Oxfordshire County Council, while some could be adopted by the town council or residents themselves.

These include introducing a low emission zone, launching a campaign called “Kill your engine, not your neighbour” and creating “living walls” of plants which absorb particulates.

The group also wants to reduce the number of heavy goods vehicles that pass through the town with the use of traffic regulation orders, weight and width restrictions and signage.

It also wants to encourage alternative modes of transport such as car sharing schemes and “park and stride” as well as promoting cycling and walking.

The group hopes to produce a leaflet, questionnaire and webpage.

The public consultation is likely to be launched in January, subject to the approval of the town council.

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