Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Driven out by air pollution

A MAN is to sell his home of 25 years because he says Henley’s air pollution

A MAN is to sell his home of 25 years because he says Henley’s air pollution problem is making him ill.

Mike Stanton, 70, suffers asthma attacks when he walks the few minutes from his house into the town centre, where levels of nitrogen dioxide are well above the national target limit.

Now the semi-retired management consultant and his wife Jan are to put their four-bedroom detached house on the market.

Mr Stanton, who suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said: “It was a house chosen within walking distance of the shops and station and now some of the town centre isn’t walkable for me.

“It’s time to move to an area where there’s less pollution. Jan’s whole attitude is ‘I’ve got to stop you having asthma attacks’ so we’ll go wherever we need to.”

Mr Stanton said he became concerned for his health in the autumn after suffering several asthma attacks and finding that more use of his inhaler had little or no effect.

He said: “I lived in Holland for a number of years but kept the house here. Now being nearly retired, I’m spending more time in Henley than I used to.

“What I noticed was when I walked to the bottom of Greys Road and Duke Street I got an asthma attack.

“I started to look into this and discovered that in Duke Street the measured pollution levels are way above the European norm, and obviously legal limits, a lot of the day. The big problem is the number of diesel cars.

“The asthma attacks I get are caused almost entirely by air pollution. I’ve installed air purifiers in my house that clean the air and remove particulates.”

His wife said: “It worries me because I know that if we walk down to town he starts to cough as soon as we get to the lower level. He describes it as like breathing through sand.

“I’ve noticed it getting worse over the last couple of years. We can all smell it.

“Once I walked down Greys Road and noticed three mums with buggies and small children and there were diesel fumes belching into these children’s faces.”

Mrs Stanton, who organised the river pageant to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012, said she would miss the town “terribly” but added: “More important to me is keeping Mike healthy.”

The levels of nitrogen dioxide in parts of Duke Street, Hart Street, Market Place, Bell 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.

Mr Stanton, who has suffered from chest problems for about 15 years, said the major cause was stationary traffic and diesel engines pumping out particulates. Those smaller than 2.5 microns could cause lung damage.

He also blamed aircraft coming in to land at Heathrow Airport which stack over the town in certain wind conditions.

“All in all it makes Henley quite an unhealthy place to live for asthmatics and sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,” said Mr Stanton.

He said the decision to move was made reluctantly.

“My wife has also lived around here for 20 years,” he explained. “I like Henley and we have got lots of friends around here.

“Henley was the perfect place 25 years ago but since then two things have changed. Firstly, my circumstances — I’ve got older, less healthy and I am almost retired — and secondly, I think the area is more polluted than it was 25 years ago.

“That balance of factors has become so that it makes sense to move away from Henley to where there’s clear air.

“We’re going to go and look for somewhere further west, such as Somerset, Devon or Dorset — somewhere on a hillside with plenty of clean air.

“I come from Bristol originally so moving to the West Country feels like the beginning of the next phase of life.

“I think Henley has a serious problem but so does London and Reading and all the other conurbations in the South.

“It’s just a consequence of affluence, of people owning more cars and industry making more things.

“Gradually, government policy will fix it but not quickly enough to help me. My forecast is that in 20 years’ time Henley will be a lot cleaner because diesel cars will have been phased out but I’ll be dead by then!

“I think an outright ban on diesel vehicles coming through the town is unrealistic. I think the answer is to increase road tax on polluting diesel cars and to increase tax on diesel fuel.”

Mr Stanton also suggested that a toll be introduced on Henley Bridge to discourage lorry drivers from using the town as a short cut but said the long-term solution was the introduction of electric and hybrid cars.

Henley town centre has been an air quality management area since 2003 but environmental group Henley in Transition has called for a ban on diesel and heavy goods vehicles.

Earlier this year a report by environmental consultants Ricardo Energy for South Oxfordshire District Council failed to come up with any specific recommendations to improve air quality in the town.

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