Hastings campaigners urge action on air pollution

Scores of people have sent a petition to the council, written on protective masks, urging action be taken on air pollution.

Residents with the petition on protective masks outside the town hall
Residents with the petition on protective masks outside the town hall

The petition, addressed to council leader Peter Chowney, was handed in on Tuesday (December 6).

It calls on the authority to take steps to monitor air pollution around the site of the proposed Queensway Gateway Road (QGR) and to call a halt to road construction until a clear picture of current pollution levels is obtained.

Environmental group, Combe Haven Defenders, said its monitoring carried out near the route of the QGR shows serious cause for concern over nitrogen dioxide pollution, with diffusion tube monitoring showing a serious breach of lawful levels over four separate months.

The group said a recent report from the Royal College of Physicians estimates around 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are attributable to the effects of outdoor air pollution, most of it coming from vehicle emissions.

Emily Johns, Combe Haven Defenders spokeswoman, said: “Our monitoring suggests there is already a serious problem with air pollution around the route of the QGR. This can only be exacerbated by the predicted huge increase in traffic when the road opens. Air pollution is a public health emergency, and we are calling on the council to take immediate steps not only to monitor the situation, but to put a moratorium on further construction work for the QGR while this monitoring is carried out. Residents have a right to breathe clean air, and building a new road when there would appear to be a serious problem with air pollution already, is only going to make matters much worse.”

Permission for the road was first granted in February last year, then quashed the following June. The application was considered for a second time last December after the traffic and air pollution figures had been revised, with applicant Sea Change Sussex saying the levels of air pollution were now within legal limits.

Today (Thursday, December 8), Cllr Chowney said: “The link road construction is under way after a series of legal challenges on its air pollution effects failed, and the process of challenging the decision was eventually exhausted.

“The council has no powers to interfere with or prevent the construction of the road, and of course it’s not possible to measure the pollution effects of a road that isn’t there yet.

“But the road is unlikely to generate additional traffic. It’s a short stretch of road that will make traffic flows between the A259 and A21 smoother and quicker.

“Research by Newcastle University two years ago showed that stop-start driving in queued traffic increased levels of pollutants by 150 per cent, compared with traffic that moved smoothly at an even speed.

“The purpose of this road is to achieve precisely that, leading to less traffic congestion and consequently less air pollution in the West Ridge area.

“The scheme will also involve the closure to through traffic of Maplehurst Road, a residential road where poor air quality caused by queuing traffic will be much improved.

“When the Queensway Gateway road is complete, it will be possible to re-assess air pollution across the whole West Ridge area, but it’s quite possible that overall air quality will have improved, as well as reducing journey times and reducing traffic congestion.”

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