This Friday, 30 November, Green Euro-MP Keith Taylor will visit Winchester to meet with residents who are concerned about the town’s high levels of air pollution. Residents, including children who are most severely affected by this problem, will present Keith Taylor MEP with a copy of a formal complaint which highlights how Winchester is breaking EU air quality laws. This complaint will be submitted to the European Commission in Brussels.
Winchester has a worrying air pollution problem. The City Council has known that annual levels of the pollutant, Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the town have been 25% over the maximum permitted under both EU and UK legislation for the past 9 years. This is having an alarming impact on the health of local residents as long term exposure to NO2 at these levels is thought to increase the likelihood of asthma attacks and respiratory illness in children.
The problem is clearly related to traffic levels in Winchester and would be solved if traffic was reduced. The City Council and the County Council as highways authority have taken no action to reduce traffic in central Winchester and indeed both councils in recent months have made policy decisions that are likely to increase traffic in the centre.
A year ago Winchester Friends of the Earth asked the City Council to produce a credible plan to meet the legal Air Quality requirements over a specific timescale. The City Council declined to provide such a plan. Winchester Friends of the Earth and Winchester Green Party have now drawn up a complaint to the European Commission, citing infringement of the European Commission’s Ambient Air Quality Directive, the law which sets safe levels of air pollution.
Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP, said “I’m glad that people in Winchester have taken this bold step to voice their concerns about the air quality problem at a European level. Air pollution levels in the town are worryingly high and we’ve seen no serious action from either the city or the county council. I’m pleased to be supporting their complaint to the European Commission in Brussels. It’s high time that action was taken to make Winchester a healthier, safer place to live in and travel around.”
Dr. Michael Wilks, a health expert and a member of Winchester Green Party said “The health implications of a traffic-dominated town are very serious, both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, traffic inhibits the healthy alternatives to car access to the city – walkers and cyclists are deterred, intimidated and put in positive danger in a car-dominated street system. Motor traffic directly affects the health of Winchester residents through pollution.”
Hazel Agombar of Friends of the Earth said “As a mother of children in a city centre school directly affected by the traffic, I constantly ask myself why it is that the City Council believes it is so much more important to listen to the lobbying of business interests than to try and prevent our children being poisoned. We have waited years for the Council to take proper responsibility for this.”