County Councillor Rob Bird reports on the invisible killer. Air pollution is estimated to kill over 10 times more people than car accidents resulting in 29,000 people being killed prematurely each year in the UK.
People with heart and lung conditions suffer most from increased levels of air pollution but, because they breathe more air for their body size than adults, children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality in the long term.
Nonetheless, despite Government claims that 'tackling air pollution is a priority', Conservative MEPs recently attempted to weaken EU pollution limits behind the public’s back; fortunately they were not successful. Nonetheless, the Guardian has recently reported that last year the Government halved the money distributed to councils under the air quality grant programme to just £500,000. That is down from £1m the year before and £3m in 2011-2012. To read the Guardian report in full click here.
Motor vehicles are a major cause of air pollution. Several areas of Maidstone exceed EU pollution limits. The Liberal Democrats are determined that Maidstone should be a good place to live and work. So what are we doing?
Cleaner vehicles will help but it's vital to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads and hence congestion. The 2011 Census showed that over 44% of Maidstone residents drive to work, 8% walk, less than 1% cycle and just 2.6% take the bus. Yet one full bus can mean 40 less cars clogging our roads.
Maidstone's new Integrated Transport Strategy aims to reduce vehicle emissions through promoting more sustainable transport. Walking and cycling will be encouraged as more pleasurable, healthy and environmentally friendly options. Two new cycleways are planned. One is planned to follow the Medway towpath from Allington through the town centre to Barming. The South East Cycle Link will develop a route into Maidstone from Langley along the Loose valley.
Councillors will pursue the refurbishment of the central Maidstone bus-station and are working with the bus operators to increase the bus frequency on key routes. Congestion hotspots are being addressed where viable and work will commence on the bridge gyratory system in the summer.
Much needs to be done but clearly we must do all that we can to make Maidstone cleaner and safer.