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Council failing to tackle air pollution – now it’s even at odds with its own Transport Minister!

July 15, 2018 7:26 PM
By Nick Eden-Green

Submitted to the Kentish Gazette and Canterbury Journal for publication by Nick Eden-Green - July 2018

Focus Team members Cllr Charlotte MacCaul, James Flanagan, Mike Sole and Cllr Nick Eden-Green at the air quality monitoring unit at Military RoadThere has been much talk and little action about Canterbury's increasingly severe air pollution problem. We have been faced with growing numbers of diesel vehicles which new evidence shows are the main culprits. We will be faced with 11,000 more houses on the southern, eastern and western fringes of Canterbury, most of which will have cars and most will wish to use the ring road. This will mean far worse traffic jams. Remember, stationary or slow moving traffic is the most polluting.

So the council really does need to take some action.

On 28 April Lib Dem councillors Michael Dixey and I proposed a motion to encourage electric car ownership for those buying these new houses and to make the houses more energy efficient. It also urged the council to use its existing powers to get drivers to switch off their engines when stationary.

Frankly I was amazed when I read the report on our motion. Essentially it recommends that the council should continue to do nothing.

The motion was simple and virtually cost free. It asked that all new housing developments of 10 or more dwellings should be designed to have at least one south facing roof where possible. This would enable solar panels to be fitted either at the time of the build or afterwards. Designing a housing estate with south facing roofs costs absolutely nothing and should be a standard requirement so that residents of those new houses will be able to enjoy low or even zero energy bills.

The motion also proposed that an electric car charging point should be fitted at the time of building a house. Doing this will cost almost nothing whereas retrofitting it will cost a lot. If a new homeowner has a point built in then they are far more likely to consider buying an electric car. Again the proposal in the council's report is to do nothing. Yet today (9 July) Transport Minister Chris Grayling announced that we should assess if new homes and offices should be required to install charging points as standard. Once more the Conservatives on the city council are behind the curve, and even lagging behind their own government on environmental issues which very directly affect our citizens.

Many years ago I proposed that we should encourage local shops to stop giving away free plastic bags. I did the same with smoking in enclosed public spaces. Both were voted down by local Conservative councillors. Yet a few years later the government finally introduced an end to free plastic bags and banned smoking in enclosed public spaces. Canterbury could have been ahead of the curve instead of behind our European neighbours as well as Ireland, Scotland and even its own government! Surely, just for once, this council could adopt some simple cost free measures to actually do something positive about the environment rather than doing nothing until their own government forces them to.

We are on the cusp of granting planning consent for thousands more homes. This is urgent. The council has the powers to act. To be blunt: Why are we waiting?

Note: this report is Item 14 in the Policy and Resources Agenda - 11 July 2018

Image shows Cllr Charlotte MacCaul, James Flanagan, Mike Sole and Cllr Nick Eden-Green at the air quality monitoring unit on Military Road, Canterbury