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Canterbury City Council's air quality action plan to be enforced

By Joe Wright

A divisive plan to combat deadly levels of air pollution across the district has been put into action by the city council - despite objectors branding the measures “not fit for purpose”.

A raft of proposals - including fining drivers who leave their engines running at level crossings - will now be enforced.

Other factors to be unanimously agreed upon by councillors include creating more electric vehicle charging points, encouraging car sharing, and exploring the possibility of introducing a low emissions zone.

Drivers who keep their engines on when stuck at level crossings can get a penalty
Drivers who keep their engines on when stuck at level crossings can get a penalty

The much-discussed car-free day, in which drivers are urged to leave their cars at home for one day, is also something the council wants to implement.

Despite parts of the five-year air quality blueprint being welcomed, campaigners fear the district’s most dangerous pollutant has been overlooked.

Dangerous PM 2.5 particles can cause damage to organs, brains and foetuses, as well as trigger or worsen conditions such as asthma and bronchitis but the council’s prime focuses are to combat high levels of nitrogen dioxide in Canterbury and Herne, and to cut car usage in work commutes by 5.7% by 2023.

Green Party member Henry Stanton said: “This plan is simply not fit for purpose as the council deliberately chooses not to monitor the deadliest form of air pollution, PM 2.5 particulate matter - simply because it’s not required to. This suggests the council doesn’t even understand the nature of the problem.

“The desire merely to comply with substandard legislation demonstrates absolute contempt for the health of Canterbury’s residents and craven unwillingness to take the requisite actions to prevent deaths.”

Pollution is high in parts of Canterbury and Herne
Pollution is high in parts of Canterbury and Herne

Dubbed “wishful thinking” by Cllr Michael Dixey, the target has been adopted in line with the council’s Transport Strategy which seeks to achieve a 23% reduction in car and van use by 2031.

Professor Stephen Peckham, who is professor of health policy and director of the University of Kent’s centre for health services, believes park and ride charges should be reduced as an incentive to ditch cars.

He said: “The council has ducked this issue for too long - granting planning permission after planning permission that adds traffic to local roads and even pushing for a multi-storey car park that will attract cars into one of the most polluted areas of the city.”

Mr Stanton also took aim at the authority’s decision to highlight a project run earlier this year which involved displaying pollution posters created by pupils from St Thomas’ and St John’s primary schools.

Henry Stanton has spoken out against the council's plan
Henry Stanton has spoken out against the council's plan

He said: “It’s great that primary schools have been involved in this plan, but cCiting their exhibition in the Beaney as an example of how the council is dealing with an air pollution problem that takes 750 years of life from our residents every year illustrates the paucity of imagination and complete lack of interest in taking this problem seriously.”

Council leader Simon Cook said: “Improving air quality is a key priority for the council and we will do all we can in those areas we can directly influence.

“Five years is a long time so we stand ready to take advantage of any new ideas that might come along and advances in technology or our understanding.”

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