Trust warns of health dangers from air pollution

Posted by Nobody on 27 June 2015

Current levels of nitrogen dioxide in the town is running over the level deemed to be safe by both the EU and the World Health Organisation.

Government estimates that 29,000 people die each year in the UK because of polluted air.  Those in ill health with bronchial or cardiac issues are vulnerable to being brought low and even hospitalised by polluted air.  Government estimates that the cost of polluted air in sickness and premature death is running at between nine and nineteen billion pounds a year, whilst WHO puts it at a whopping  fifty-six billion.

Pointing out that 70% of journeys through the town either start of end in Devizes, the Trust is asking people to reduce their car use, either by using alternative means of transport or by cutting the number of journeys.

It wants to see improvements in Public Transport and is alarmed that Wiltshire Council is planning to cut £120 Million from its public transport budget.  It appreciates that Wiltshire is hard pressed for funds but believes that the Goverment should fund green transport in areas where pollution is a problem, recouping the money and much more in years to come from the reduced cost of pollution on the state.  It points out that, even working on the lowest estimate of cost, £400,000 a year would be the saving for the Devizes Community Area.

It is asking its members to write to their MP raising this issue of cross funding and has compiled a Letter to our MP for people to use as they see fit.

The Trust first raised the issue of pollution four years ago and continues to work with Wiltshire Council to find effective ways of reducing it to safe levels.

A detailed report on the discussion that took place after the presentations follows:


Public Meeting held Friday 26th June 2015 in Devizes Town Hall.

The data presented had two key messages.  First, that 70% of the vehicle journeys in Devizes start and end in Devizes.  This means that Devizes residents are a major contributor to the traffic flows and resultant congestion/emissions.  Second, that only a 5% reduction in traffic would result in the air quality dropping to the legislative, acceptable levels.  Thus to a great extent the solution lays within achieving only a 5% reduction in journey behaviour of the residents of the town.  For someone who makes a daily trip into town this is changing their plans so that in 20 days the trip is not made.  Achievable?

Following the presentations the table-groups were asked to consider two questions; what would they like the Wiltshire Council to do; what could they do to improve the situation regarding air quality and traffic?  Whilst there was some overlap of the points made the summary of the thoughts are shown below:

What would we like the Wiltshire Council to consider?

  1. Create travel plans with each school seeking that 5% reduction in journeys.
  2. Engage employers to sponsor travel plans seeking 5% reduction (provision of pool car for off-site journeys for employees who have to leave site?
  3. Provide separation of bicycle lanes/tracks from motorised vehicles.
  4. Provide improved surfaces to the cycle ways (drainage and even surface)
  5. Pedestrianise the streets around lower end of the Brittox.
  6. Enforce the “no cycling on pavements” (separating cycle from pedestrians)
  7. Repair road surface around road drain covers and grids to ease cyclist’s needs to enter main traffic flows.
  8. Plant some trees along the streets.
  9. Establish the efficiency and suitability of the bus units used for school runs (often old and inefficient diesel engine units without particulate filters).
  10. Ensure that public service vehicles are equipped with the appropriate latest technology (a stationery bus with its diesel engine idling emits a disproportionate amount of air quality reduction contaminants)
  11. Introduce “Boris Bikes for the town.
  12.  Progress the Shane’s Castel pavement and road alignment improvements a.s.a.p.
  13. Review the Highways Restrictions (e.g. one way streets, and by ways within the town) regarding providing sensible routes for cyclist to access and egress the town.
  14. Provision car parking for employees in suitable areas of car parks.
  15. Share the publicity with parents, schools and employers of the effect of 5% reduction in journeys has on achieving compliant air pollution levels.
  1. Reduce intrusive foliage and growth that obscure road traffic signs.
  2. Improve public car park signage to direct people to the next available car park to reduce “space hunting” journey time.

What can you do?

  1. Plant at least one tree.
  2. Use their bike more often.
  3. Walk into town

(nota bene; the audience was substantially biased towards the retirement age group and it is acknowledged that people with mobility issues do not have an alternative other than to use their car.  They could however look at reviewing their travel plans to reduce the number of journeys into or around town by 1 in 20 – which is the 5% reduction – avoid one daily journey every three weeks?).

These comments will be reviewed at the next Trust for Devizes Committee meeting and a plan developed on how these ideas can be pursued.

John Baumber - Trustee 27 June 2015

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