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Councils in Kent to get share of £255 million to tackle pollution

By Paul Francis

Councils in Kent are to be given a share of a £255 million pot of money to curb pollution caused by traffic on their busiest roads.

The government says it will be up to councils to determine what steps they want to take but did not rule out the idea of charging on the most polluted roads.

“What we're saying to local authorities is come up with an imaginative solution to these proposals," said the environment secretary Michael Gove.

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Traffic congestion

Traffic congestion

The announcement is part of a government strategy to deal with air quality and pollution.

It has drawn controversy as it outlines plans to ban all petrol and diesel cars in 2040 - with only electric cars being permitted after that time.

Figures show that there were more than 1,000 early deaths in Kent and Medway in 2010 caused by air pollution - with the highest number of those deaths in poorer areas.

The leader of Maidstone council, Cllr Fran Wilson, questioned how it would work in practice.

Should motorists be charged to use Kent's most polluted roads to improve air quality?

“I am desperate to do something about air quality. Charging motorists is one thing but there has to be an alternative.

"I would happily ask motorists to pay but what if there is no alternative and the car is the only option? And I would never do anything that would upset the economy of the borough.”

On banning all petrol and diesel cars, she said: “The idea is wonderful and I support it 100% but on a practical level it is very difficult to implement.”

A car exhaust pumping out of fumes. Stock image

A car exhaust pumping out of fumes. Stock image

Maidstone was already seeing significant rises in the amount of traffic caused by a number of large housing developments, she said.

Kent also has one of the highest number of people driving to work at 71%, according to a report on public health by the county council in 2015.

Stuart Jeffery from the Green Party

Stuart Jeffery from the Green Party

Maidstone Green party spokesman Cllr Stuart Jeffrey criticised Cllr Wilson saying: “There is an appalling lack of political will to tackle deadly air pollution that is killing 130 people each year in Maidstone and this week’s announcements are too little, too late."

"As the Lib Dem leader suggests that the problem of traffic as too difficult to deal with perhaps she should stand down and let those of us with ideas make the much needed changes."

South East Green MEP Keith Taylor said: "Banning petrol and diesel cars from Britain's roads by 2040 is a positive step, but, despite the headline grabbing pledge, the truth is the Government's new air quality plan is only slightly less feeble than its predecessor."

 

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