• Poisoned Playgrounds

    There's a killer lurking outside of our children's playground across the Rochford District and residents don't currently have the comfort of knowing it's not about to get into the playgrounds. Why? there is absolutely NO air monitoring data outside of school playgrounds in the Rochford District.

    That is why the Lib Dems, Rochford Residents & Green groups have come together to carry out their own air monitoring tests. We want to know if our residents are at risk from illegal levels of air pollution. Client Earth's postcode checker does not represent our area and I'm in contact with them to get this ammended. 

    Watch the video below, it's pretty powerful stuff.

  • Is this a clear case of wealth before health?

    Something I rapidly learnt over the course of 1 year – nothing moves quickly in local government. I have to say though I find the following appalling.

    So I’ve decided, not to celebrate but to commiserate on this Echo News Reportthis Echo News report & this Echo News Report which goes as far back as 1999 that air pollution around Rayleigh was at unsafe limits

    The environmental pressure group (Friends of the Earth) claims the official figures show that despite improvements made by car manufacturers to cut down exhaust emissions, the level of air pollution on the stretch of road will still be above safe limits in 2005. reported the “plan to act over poor air”,

    In 2007 the council responded to the problem with

    Rayleigh councillor Mavis Webster said she would also raise the issue with Essex County Council’s cabinet member for transport, Norman Hume.

    and in 2015 another response from the Tory council

    The annual average level of nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant associated with exhaust emissions – is just over the Government guidelines.

    Mr Gordon said: “Without powers or funding I don’t know what we are expected to do about it. The levels are not dangerous.

    It is not something for people to worry about.”

    Cheryl Roe, district councillor and chairman of the town council’s environment committee, hopes the Rayleigh Area Action Plan, which was submitted to the Government in December, will go some way to alleviating the problem which she says people do worry about.

    She said: “The pollution needs to be looked at. We need to ease the flow of traffic through the town centre and stop people getting stuck for so long.

     

    Still waiting for something to be done? Here we are 18, yes 18 years later – no credible plan in place and still no action from the Tory led council. This should send a clear message to our residents that the health and well being of our residents simply does not matter!

  • A Clean Air Zone for Rayleigh?

    Rayleigh has a cloudy history when it comes to Air Pollution and now the Government has been forced to up the ante to solve the increasing problem with Air Pollution across the UK. Whilst we all probably realise, London suffers with poor air quality, we are in fact (and have been for a long time) facing an illegal limit of NO2 right in our own town. 

    You may have read my previous posts on air pollution or seen our campaign to increase the air quality monitoring across the district. Now, however the UK Government has launched another consultation on how to reduce the pollution in our towns and cities.

    The highlights of the document are the ways in which this could be acheived

    • ​Exploring innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels;
    • Buying ULEVs and encouraging local transport operators to do the same
    • Encouraging private uptake of ULEVs via ensuring adequate chargepoints
    • Encouraging use of public transport, cycling, walking, park and ride schemes, and car sharing
    • Improving road layouts and junctions to optimise traffic flow, for example by considering removal of road humps
    • Working with local businesses and neighbouring authorities to ensure a consistent approach
    • Charging certain types of vehicles to enter or move within the zone

    Now I don't have any prior knowledge of what our local council could be doing about our particular problem (as that would be a Tory decision), other than the already published AQAP - but in the Government's consultation it's suggested that charging vehicles to enter a clean air zone (i.e Rayleigh Town Centre) would be the quickest way to get the problem under control.

    On the basis of the failure to act and armed with the knowledge that even OUTSIDE of the AQMA, there are indications from our own sampling that there is more illegal pollution in our town, there is a possibility that we could see a clean air zone set up in Rayleigh with some of the dirtiest polluting vehicles being charged to pass through our town centre.

    Watch this space for future developments or sign up below for future updates!

  • The Hole Truth About Our Highways

    An Audience with Essex Highways

    Last night I attended an epic 2 1/2 hour briefing by Essex Highways about how they operate. (Death by Powerpoint yet again)

    There is a pretty much constant complaint from residents about the poor condition of our roads in Rochford District. So it was interesting to hear for myself and Cllr Chris Stanley to hear that Essex County Council (ECC) highways report that our roads are pretty much meeting the targets. PR1 at 98%, PR2 at 99% and local roads 94% (although it was noted that they said these need some improvement)

    So some statistics.

    • ECC say the Essex road network is an asset worth £10bn
    • The budget for maintaining these roads is £100m
    • Rochford District gets a £1.6m share in the budget for our roads

    So it seems that the ‘road’ we were led up was that all is good – there will be potholes but some will not be fixed as any matter of urgency. Some will get repaired urgently. There is criteria – I’m not sure I fully understood although you can be sure the ones on the main carriageways will be fixed before the local roads.

    One thing I did takeaway from the briefing that if you want to report potholes, lighting issues etc do it via the official ECC website as this gets fed directly into the database. Also the more people that report the problem the more likely it will gain the ‘attention’

    Report Here on the official ECC website (Mobile Friendly as well I’m told)

  • A Podcast From Radio 4 on Air Pollution

  • Feeling Conned by the Consultation?

    Recently we’ve seen lots of consultations by Rochford District Council. First came the local plan workshops, which has been swiftly followed by a budget survey, followed by an air quality survey, only to be followed by a community safety partnership survey. Wow I’m feeling pretty consulted out…. it almost seems like the council are so ‘out of touch’ with the residents that they don’t really know what they should be doing or is it that there is a mandatory requirement to consult?

    So is it worth your time and effort to respond to these surveys? Well judging by the responses so far I’d say most people think they’d rather not bother. I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why people don’t respond to these surveys, overwhelming I hear the same reason – the council don’t listen. Cllr Chris Black, recently commented on this at a planning sub committee meeting. Residents whom had come along to the local plan workshop had made suggestions and had ideas. What happened to these ideas and suggestions….. they got buried in this document! It wouldn’t have taken much to capture residents details and follow up with them on their ideas. Sorry RDC but if you really want this ‘relationship’ to work it can’t be one way!

    If you have the urge to respond to the surveys the follow the links above or if you want to see my opinions here’s the posts I’ve written on a few of the consultations.

    RDC Budget Consultation

    The Consultation Process 

    Rayleigh has an Unseen Killer on the Loose!

  • Thought for the day – If you could see the air pollution in Rayleigh would it look like this?

    So it’s a foggy day right? But as we walked back from the High Street along the London Road, I did ponder to myself whether if air pollution was visible to the naked eye, are these the types of images we would see like in China? I think it’s an interesting thought as so often it’s said “Seeing is believing” – in this case though just because we can’t see the air pollution doesn’t mean it’s not there. We are working towards scientific proof that what we think is very real. Though we still won’t be able to see the air pollution we will offer the evidence to prove otherwise.

  • Tories Gasp for Air over AQAP

    Wednesday was not a good night for the blues at the Rayleigh Town Council meeting to discuss the AQAP. It was one of those subjects that I was particularly interested in having spent my earlier life carrying out scientific studies for the MET Office and The Institute of Hydrology, and this is what this AQAP should be based on. Cold, hard FACTS.

    Getting straight to the point, on inspection of this draft AQAP there really didn’t seem to be too much science behind it! Sadly, the officer at RDC with responsibility, declined to attend the meeting as Rayleigh Town Council are just consultees.

    AQAP

    Our residents are seemingly expected to ‘go with the flow’. RDC is clambering to fill an impending deficit in the budget, and by the admission of the portfolio holder for planning – Cllr Ian Ward, they intend to build their way out of the red back into the black!! Somehow I’m feeling this isn’t the solution. I challenged Cllr Ward on the alleged £60k of public money that has been spent on ‘remodelling’ the town centre traffic system. This appeared to be news to some members. However Cllr Ward did oblige on detailing the results of the ‘remodelling’ – which appeared to be nothing more than changing Zebra crossings to traffic light controlled crossings. There was hope this would help the traffic to flow better, I’m not sure that £60k is worth ‘hope’ such as this and doesn’t seem like terrific value for money in these times of austerity.

    Other suggestions were that the Royal Horticultural Society had been engaged to advise on ‘flower power’ to help reduce the pollution. I challenged this and was informed by Cllr Margaret Spencer to refer to the ‘London Plane Trees’. I’ll openly admit I’ve not got ‘green fingers’, but I did argue with Cllr Spencer that is this the reason recently the Mayor of London has announced a $1.1bn plan to improve air quality? Sounds like a lot of trees to me, if this is the answer to problem as Cllr Spencer suggests. Since the meeting I’ve had an opportunity to see if Cllr Spencers claims can be backed up and this is what I’ve found.

    But how did it go from interesting curiosity to the urban tree of choice lining so many of London’s streets? It was planted en masse at a time when London was black with soot and smoke from the Industrial Revolution and when population expansion forced greater urban planning.

    To be fair to Cllr Spencer there maybe some evidence that this can help on the DEFRA website. For me it’s the practicalities of planting out our areas that are suffering high concentrations of gases such as Crown Hill & High Street.

    Strong discussion took place, and there were lots of concerns from the members of the council. I think one aspect of the draft plan that we all agreed on was it was entirely naive and unrealistic.

    Suggestions such as

    • encouraging the public to use buses
    • electric cars and cycles
    • infrastructure and funding for cycle lanes and electric charging points does not exist

    We had further comments from some councillors about reducing pollution in the town centre by asking delivery vehicles and taxis to turn off their running engines when they are waiting. They may not have however considered refrigerated vehicles and similarly for taxi’s it’s a choice between air conditioning and heating in the taxi and long periods between customers could mean a taxi could be an uncomfortable experience.

    My fellow Lib Dem, Cllr Chris Stanley, also informed the council that our party had offered to monitor other parts of Rayleigh that could potentially have a problem with the air quality as reported by our residents, but this offer of help was turned down by RDC’s officer! – The cynic in me wonders WHY????

    Overall it was a healthy debate and hopefully educational – Rayleigh Town Council will send off their findings to the Rochford District Council. You too can have your say as the public consultation will run until 3rd January 2017. Consultation responses can be sent to airquality@rochford.gov.uk or sent to the Council postal address marked ‘Air Quality’. The document that the consultation is based on is here

     

  • The Introduction of Electric Vehicle Charging Points in Rayleigh – A Lightbulb Moment?

    Part of the draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) references Electric Vehicles (EV’s).

    Hmmm, is this a feasible alternative to our gas guzzling, fume belching vehicles I pondered? Well, there seems to be an increase in sales in the EV market, sadly though that doesn’t appear to the case in the UK. Our slow adoption might be why there are NO public charge points in Rayleigh! So unless you are at home, you are clean out of luck. Looking at ‘ZAP MAP’ the nearest public charging point is Leigh On Sea or Wickford. Whatever the urge I feel right now to come ‘clean’ – this isn’t going to work for me I’m afraid, I simply don’t think I could bear the 1hr round journey to charge my vehicle for it’s 100 mile range. Those that don’t have off street parking are left with no alternative other than to use these public charge points. Sadly, it appears this is the story of our lives here in Rayleigh, infrastructure not being in place to handle the needs of our residents. However attractive this may look I think it’s just wishful thinking by our local council. I’ll cross this one off the AQAP list for now!

     

    screenshot_2016-12-10-19-45-45

  • Air Quality Action Plans and Why We Need Them

    Air Quality in Rayleigh has been poor for some time. In fact since 2004 Rayleigh has exceeded EU air quality limits. Rochford District Council has been monitoring Rayleigh for air pollution and as figure C1 from the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report shows the levels have fallen over time. However is should be noted that the 2015 data is far from conclusive in my own opinion as "A lack of resources prevented deployment of diffusion tubes during the second half of 2015." - doesn't inspire confidence when you are dealing with people's health!

    Our council clearly needs to take action on this matter as there has been a constant failure to tackle this problem. In a recent court case against the government Client Earth has won its High Court case against the Government over its failure to tackle illegal air pollution across the UK.

    This week we have met with RDC's officer responsible for Air Monitoring and offered our help. We are keen to extend the air quality monitoring to areas outside of the AQMA and have been looking at locations where there could be problems with congestion and the proximity to homes.​

    up to 50,000 people a year die early from air pollution-related illnesses in the UK

    Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

    The big question is, although areas can be monitored and identified as to whether they exceed these limits, what can be done to reduce the pollution?

    The council has been working on this and has taken on external consultants to make recommendations

    ​These are the 'broad' plans

     Monitoring

     Traffic Management

     Sustainable Travel

     Planning Policy and Development Control

     Low Emission Vehicles

     Raising Awareness

    Help Required?

    In the next month or so, the council will release the latest Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) for public consultation and it will be interesting to see how the public reacts. Although residents will acknowledge the fact that they don't want their health to suffer I wonder if proposals to the town centre traffic system, new homes, alternative travel and changing their cars will be a trade off they are willing to make?

    Do you want to know more about Air Pollution and the harmful effects? Here's a short video from Clean Air London to explain more...

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