Council Must Tackle air pollution threat
4th March 2015 – Crawley News
By Luke Warren
Fears have been raised that Crawley residents’ health is being compromised by the poor air quality in areas of the town.
Parts of the town close to Crawley Avenue and the Hazelwick roundabout have been found to have higher levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air than the national average.
High levels of nitrogen dioxide, often caused by traffic, can cause breathing problems, particularly for anyone suffering from asthma or bronchitis.
But as yet Crawley Borough Council has not revealed how far above the national average the nitrogen dioxide levels in these areas are.
The council must declare the parts of Crawley with poor air quality as an air quality management area (AQMA) and make an action plan for tackling the problem. A proposed AQMA has been drawn up.
Before finalising its plan, the council is running a consultation and wants to hear the views of residents and businesses in and around the proposed AQMA.
It specifically wants to know if people living just outside the AQMA think it should be made bigger to include their roads.
Pound Hill resident Derek Meakings lives “within 50 yards” of the proposed area and thinks it should be widened to cover all of the main roads in the town, so the council has to work to improve air quality across Crawley.
Mr Meakings, who is retired, is concerned about the effect that pollution, caused by growing amounts of traffic in the town, will have on residents’ health.
He said: “Doctors will tell you across Crawley that it’s got a very, very high incidence of respiratory problems, because we are obviously in the Gatwick basin and have the airport and lots of traffic. There’s a high number of asthma and respiratory related problems now, because of the poor air.”
An application to build a two-storey building in Harewood Close, Three Bridges, was refused last month, partly because the site was within the AQMA.
Roads covered by the AQMA include Hazelwick Avenue and North Road, in Three Bridges; Oriel Close and St Annes Road, in Pound Hill; and Tushmore Lane and Woodfield Road, in Northgate.
In refusing the Harewood Close application, a council officer said: “The proposal would result in future occupiers being exposed to these (above average) levels (of nitrogen dioxide), to the detriment of public health.”
The council has not commented on how the health of people already living in the AQMA is being affected by such levels of nitrogen dioxide.
Peter Smith, Crawley Borough Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, says he has asked this question of officers.
Councillor Smith, a keen cyclist, added that the fact that the council is having to declare an AQMA is not good news for Crawley.
He said: “I think it’s very bad news for Crawley that we now have an area that has bad air quality. I have asked questions of officers because I am interested in the subject.
“The worrying thing about it is we have to define the problem, but the cause of it is the traffic and there’s nothing we can do about the traffic.
“We may be able to influence buses – things like putting converters on their engines to make them greener.
“It’s another argument for getting people out of cars and onto buses, trains and bikes.”
The Crawley News asked Crawley Borough Council how it intends to improve air quality in the AQMA, but a response had not been received as we went to press.
The deadline for comments on the AQMA consultation is March 13. For more information, including a list of affected streets, visit www.crawley.gov.uk/pollution or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to comment.