Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Now campaigners demand action over air pollution

A CAMPAIGN calling for action to tackle Henley’s pollution problem will be launched tomorrow (Saturday).

A CAMPAIGN calling for action to tackle Henley’s pollution problem will be launched tomorrow (Saturday).

Environmental group Henley in Transition will have stall in Market Place between 10am and 2pm where it will be telling residents about its Clean Air for Henley initiative.

It comes after the Henley Standard revealed that the air quality in parts of the town is so bad that it has forced at least one resident to leave and could be affecting the town’s visitor trade.

The levels of nitrogen dioxide in some streets are 50 per cent higher than Air Quality England’s target limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre, which has sparked concerns about the effect on residents, particularly young children.

Dave McEwen, a member of Henley in Transition, said: “The idea is a call for action. It’s trying to get more information out there and make people more aware of how serious the problem is and trying to get them involved in a campaign to do something about it. It might involve a public meeting or a petition.”

The stall will feature three stories of Henley residents who suffer from asthma because of pollution and visitors will have the opportunity to sign up to the campaign.

The trio includes Mike Stanton, who is selling his home after 25 years because the pollution is making him ill. The 70-year-old said he suffers asthma attacks when he walks the few minutes from his house into the town centre.

Mr McEwen, of Church Street, said the town’s air quality problem had been known about for more than a decade.

South Oxfordshire District Council deemed Henley an air quality management area in 2003 and produced an action plan in 2007.

Mr McEwen said: “It has got lots of good actions in it, the only problem is they haven’t taken any of them. It’s time for action.

“There are lots of things that can be done, it just needs the political will to do them.

“It’s almost now weekly that you learn something about the health effects of pollution. We’re going to be putting out facts about pollution levels.”

The group wants a ban on heavy goods vehicles using the town as a rat run and has suggested a campaign for people to switch off their engines at traffic lights. Mr McEwen said: “It might be that we need a low emission zone in Henley or to try to restrict deliveries in the town at certain times.

“We want to try to cut down on car journeys so we need a decent bus service, for example.

“Come along and see us on our stall. We want your support and we need your support to get anything done, so come and join us.”

David Dickie, another member of the group, said: “I think a campaign is necessary because nothing has been done for 13 years which is, as far as I’m concerned, a disgrace in government.

“ I’m told the only way we’ll get something done is to have mass rally like we had with Townlands.

“We’re starting to bring people together on our campaign to put pressure on councils. It’s got to be a people power thing if the Government is going to do anything.”

Mr Dickie, of St Katherine’s Road, has claimed that Henley’s tourism industry is being damaged as visitors are being discouraged from returning due to the effect of traffic fumes.

South Oxfordshire District councillor Will Hall said that visitors were “stepping into poison” when they arrived.

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