Three years to address air pollution problem ‘not glacially slow’ says District Council
By Peter Dobbs
In a reply to a letter written by Ashbourne Lib Dem Peter Dobbs, a spokesman for Derbyshire Dales District Council defended their lack of progress in addressing the issue of very high levels of NOx pollution on Buxton Road. Their statement was issued on the very same day that the Coroner at the inquest into the death of Ella Kissi-Debrah, who died in Feb 2013 in Lewisham, had found that air pollution was a contributory cause of death.
Mr Dobbs' letter had pointed out that the 2012 average annual NOx reading at New Cross monitoring station in Lewisham was 59ugm-3. The current equivalent value for one of the monitoring locations on Buxton Road is higher than this with a peak value of over 70ugm-3. The Air Quality Objective ('safe limit') is 40ugm-3
The Derbyshire Dales Community and Environment Committee is, as its name implies, tasked with issues that concern the environment of Dales residents. However in all the time that 'illegally' high readings for NOx have been recorded on Buxton Road, not once has air pollution been an agenda item for the committee.
Another response to a question asked by Mr Dobbs indicates that the Council Officers expect Councillors to make themselves familiar with air pollution issues by reading the Air Quality 'Annual Status Report' or ASR. This, when it is published (it has in the past been over a year late) deals with data from the previous year - data that can be 18 months old. This is surely not an acceptable way to keep Councillors informed.
A request in August via an open letter signed by a group of Liberal Democrat Councillors (also published in the Ashbourne News Telegraph) for Council Officers to brief them on what the Council was doing about air pollution has produced no action for 4 months although a workshop session is now promised for some undefined time in the future.
Overall the whole process seems to lack any sense of urgency or focus with months passing without any discernable action
Ella Kissi-Debrah's mother said during interviews for TV that she was particularly distressed by the fact that Council officials knew about the dangerous levels of pollution in the area in which she and her daughter lived but did nothing to address the problem of air pollution.
Residents who have to breathe the polluted air on Buxton Road (and dodge the traffic) are also far from happy with how things are being handled in Ashbourne.
Nick Bishop comments; "I live on Buxton Road and I suffer from Asthma. I have submitted a complaint to Derbyshire Dales District Council about its failure to take action to reduce the very high levels of NOx pollutants on Buxton Road. I am currently appealing against the Council's decision not to take action to reduce pollution levels on Buxton Road".
Tim Braund who is the Director of Regulatory Services at Derbyshire Dales District Council commented at the latest meeting of the Community and Environment Committee that the problem of the 'illegal levels' of NOx is only likely to be solved by removing HGV from Buxton hill. Removing those would also address another issue highlighted by Chris and Dorsan Baker.
"As residents who live on Buxton Road, we regularly feel in danger when we are walking to and from our house. We are often obliged to flatten ourselves against the boundary walls of cottages fronting the road in order not to be crushed. These massive lorries regularly mount the pavement and have already caused severe damage to the recently re-laid footway outside our property. Also, we can often detect the noxious smell of vehicles queuing on the hill, and so are not surprised to learn that air pollution levels are dangerously high".
It is hard to believe that the intention of the 1995 Environment Act, which instructs Local Authorities to test for harmful pollutants and take steps to minimise harm, intended it to take over 3 years from identifying a problem to starting to address it. Judging from the comments of Councillors at the Community and Environment Committee on 16th December they do not think so either, voting overwhelmingly for a motion that amongst other things called on Derbyshire County Council to implement mitigation measures immediately to improve both traffic and environmental conditions within Ashbourne.