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Maidstone council to concentrate on reducing pollution in Upper Stone Street

A pollution hotspot is to be targeted with a range of measures after air quality in other parts of a borough was found to have improved significantly.

Maidstone council's executive has confirmed a recommendation from its environment committee that it reduce the size of its Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).

Upper Stone Street, Maidstone
Upper Stone Street, Maidstone

Test readings show only Upper Stone Street, between Wrens Cross and Old Tovil Road, now exceeds the permitted tolerance levels for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2).

Green councillor Stuart Jeffery urged the Conservative administration to keep the much wider existing AQMA and warned: "People die from air pollution."

He said that it might not be the cause of death recorded on their death certificates, but ambulance statistics showed a correlation between high pollution levels and a range of heart and lung conditions.

He said: "I really urge this council to do everything it can to prevent deaths and illness.

"Let's keep the air quality control area as it is."

Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green)
Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green)

Council leader David Burton (Con) said: "We all know that air quality affects every single one of us.

"But this is good news. Pollution has reduced. Reducing the size of the AQMA will enable us to concentrate all our effort on improving the worst bit of the borough."

However, he assured Cllr Jeffery that air quality monitoring would go on across the town as before and if at some future stage a deterioration suggested the AQMA needed to be expanded again, it would be.

The legal technicalities require the council to withdraw the existing AQMA order and to propose a new one for the smaller area.

The council will now consult with KCC, the Environment Agency, Highways England, businesses and the public on what Action Plan should accompany the new area.

Council leader David Burton
Council leader David Burton

The council has already tightened parking restrictions in Upper Stone Street, with double yellow lines replacing single yellow lines, and greater prohibitions on loading times. This has been accompanied by a tree planting programme.

The measures now under consideration will include persuading bus operators to upgrade their fleet of buses operating in the area. Currently, 16.4% of all NO2 pollution is said to come from buses.

There could be new guidance for developers to consider air quality issues when building around the area.

The council's taxi policy could be reviewed to see if operators could be required to run less polluting vehicles.

Wider actions across the borough are also being considered, such as putting up more anti-idling signs in problem areas and offering a discount on residents' parking permits to motorists with electric vehicles to encourage their up-take.

A 20mph limit has already been rejected
A 20mph limit has already been rejected

However, a suggestion to impose a 20mph speed limit in Upper Stone Street has already been rejected, even though evidence suggested it would have a beneficial effect on pollution, because of difficulties enforcing it.

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