Published: 06:00, 26 November 2019
Residents inhaling toxic fumes from one of England's most congested motorways are continuing their fight to erect a barrier to buffer their homes.
Brent Way overlooks the Dartford Crossing, between junctions 1A and 1B, near the M25 motorway, and records air and noise pollution above the government recommended levels.
Disgruntled homeowners say they wake every morning to thick layers of dust and dirt gathering on their windows each morning.
They believe the existing rusted fencing is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced.
Ann Langdon, who lives in nearby Brent Close says on bad days she can "smell and taste the vehicle fumes".
Since moving here with her family in 2005 she said the traffic near the M25 has only got worse.
"We need interventions which increase the distance pollution must travel from vehicles to our homes," she said.
The lack of public transport options in the area has also been criticised with the 492 service from the town to Bluewater shopping centre to be reduced.
She said: "The council tell us to use our cars less but our bus service is most likely going to be cut.
"My children are the human guinea pigs. A scientific experiment on the impact of a growing child’s lungs."
This is not the first time the issue of a fully fledged barrier has been raised.
In 2009 an application to redevelop a residential property at the Tyler's site in Brent Way was proposed.
As part of the deal struck with developers it was agreed a physical barrier would be installed along this section for noise and air quality improvements to form part of a section 106 agreement.
This was later rejected by Highways England, which according to a Dartford Council 2018 Air Quality report, said the proposals were not acceptable due to long term cost and liability issues.
As a result progress on a physical barrier ground to a halt.
Now residents are seeking to revive their bid for a buffer, aided by Kelly Grehan, ward councillor (Lab) for Stone House.
The UK's first combined noise and safety barrier was installed on a stretch of the M1 by Highways England earlier this year.
Ms Grehan believes a similar guard is needed in Dartford which could use the latest technology to block initial dispersion of harmful airborne toxins.
She has been in regular contact with Highways England who recently sent down a representative to review the railings close to the motorway.
"It was obvious he was quite shocked by the noise," she said.
"We know the problem of air pollution in Stone is significant with the Air Quality Management Area exceeding the safe level in respect of both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
"The life expectancy of people living in Stone is already lower than for Dartford Borough as a whole."
The councillor said she was determined to fight for measures to improve the lives people in Stone and would continue to lobby Highways England to replace the existing barrier.
"Pollution is a difficult problem to solve, particular in a town like ours plagued with traffic jams, but inactivity is inexcusable," she said.
"There is nothing at all at the moment, to negate the impact of the consequences of the constant traffic on the road below, and as regular visitor the road I can feel the pollution impacting my breathing when I am there.
"Residents regularly have dust covering their cars and properties, so we can only wonder what the impact is on our lungs.
"I am contacting Highways England weekly to get updates on their plans for a barrier. Residents deserve this."
It follows news the government-owned company has spent only £12.8 million of a £75m pot handed to them to reduce air pollution on its road network.
The public body manages 1,865 miles of motorway, including the M25 and Dartford Crossing, but says it has received no legal directive from the government on how the cash should be used.
Residents say over-reliance on its network has put additional pressure on adjoining council-managed roads such as Brent Way.
Local authorities have come under increased scrutiny from central government to tackle the problem.
This has led to the introduction of Clean Air Zones to measure and in some instances take enforcement action over offending levels of air pollution.
Spokesman for Highways England, Howard Rhoades, said the company was committed to playing its part in protecting the environment.
He said: "We are currently exploring ways of improving air quality and reducing noise pollution in and around Dartford, but it is too early to say what any proposals will look like."
More by this authorSean Delaney