Wiltshire Publications

Plans to combat Westbury’s polluted air will take too long & don’t do enough warns mayor

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THERE are growing concerns about the levels of pollution in Westbury. 

It follows a new plan by Wiltshire Council aimed at combating air quality pollution levels and preventing the effects on residents’ health. 

A council report says Westbury is one of eight areas in the county of particular concern.

But Westbury Mayor cllr Mike Sutton, says Wiltshire Council’s plans are “vague” and don’t go far enough. “Some might say it is an attempt to kick the problem further into the future, rather than tackle immediate and pressing problems,” he told White Horse News.

Wiltshire Council has identified eight specific locations where air quality is of concern and declared them as Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs), with the A350 through Westbury one of the main areas being monitored. Other areas include Bradford-on-Avon, Devizes, Marlborough and three locations in Salisbury. 

During the Wiltshire Council Health and Wellbeing board meeting on Thursday 23rd May, a draft strategy was put forward to combat air pollution in these areas between 2019-2024. 

The report said, “This strategy focuses on improving air quality across Wiltshire, seeks to prevent any further deterioration and encourage interventions that will reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and fine particulates across the county.

“With new developments being built, there is potential to increase the number of people living and working in areas with poor air quality and it is important that Wiltshire Council takes steps, to manage this situation, to minimise or eliminate possible harm.”

Wiltshire Council’s suggestions to improve air quality include planting  more trees/hedges, pay to ride bikes, low emission buses including electric vehicles and more charging points, and segregated cycle and walkways to give a greater feeling of safety. 

In response to the plans, mayor of Westbury, cllr Mike Sutton said, “Wiltshire Council’s draft air quality plan does little to satisfy those looking for improvements locally and is couched in vague and aspirational terms rather than specific actions and end results, which some might say is an attempt to kick the problem further into the future, rather than tackle immediate and pressing problems.

“Westbury suffers from poor air quality due to heavy traffic going through the town, along with increasing traffic within the town itself. Due to the nature of the road network in the town, these vehicles are often stationary and pumping out lethal exhaust fumes into the air, very close to houses and pedestrians.

“There needs to be a viable plan to restrict these emissions locally and not just wait for all electric vehicles in 20/30 years. The recent change in the political administration in Bath and NE Somerset is likely to increase the demand to reduce the traffic in Bath with the consequence of more coming our way and as yet, we see no constructive plan from our unitary authority.

“How about working with other agencies to develop a strategic road plan that takes traffic away from the town centre (not a by-pass) or something akin to many countries in Europe where heavy lorries are banned between 5pm Friday and 7am Monday, that would give some respite.

“I have no doubt that Wiltshire will press on with agreeing to the gasification plant as they have shown little interest in the concerns of Westbury residents and without a doubt, this will once again further pollute the air we breathe.

“It seems such a paradox that Wiltshire claim that they have a responsibility to public health and yet every time health is mentioned, state it is nothing to do with them, but we will continue to fight for clean air and the residents of Westbury.”

Ben Anderson, portfolio holder for public health and public protection at Wiltshire Council said, “We are all concerned about air quality and the risks that poor air quality present to our health. We are working to improve air quality at multiple levels and the Wiltshire Air Quality Strategy focuses on how communities and individuals have an important role to play in achieving this. 

“All of us have a role to play in improving air quality. For example small changes to our day-to-day activity, such as walking your child to school, car sharing or cycling to work all help to reduce our car usage which is the main contributor to poor air quality in the county.

 “We are already working with community air quality groups who are leading on smaller scale, local projects in their towns and villages. In some areas this includes planting trees along roadsides or promoting the use of Park and Ride. We recently ran an air quality workshop at Salisbury Area Board and I was really encouraged by the creativity and enthusiasm of members of the public for making changes in the city. I want us to run similar workshops across the county, including in Westbury, where the area board members will work with people in the town to agree local actions.

 “Generally, air quality in Wiltshire is good. There are a small number of areas, including Westbury, that we focus on, due to the volume of traffic through them, but we’re continually monitoring sites around the county to make sure the positive trend in air quality continues.”