Our concerns about air quality

We have submitted our concerns about air quality in the consultation “Improving air quality: national plan for tackling nitrogen dioxide in our towns and cities”.

London air pollution by David Holt

We are very dissatisfied with DEFRA’s (Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs) proposed measures to address the problem:

  • We do not accept that devolution of responsibility for air quality to local planning authorities is an appropriate way forward. Local authorities lack the resources, capacity and expertise to shoulder the responsibility.
  • We are concerned that each local planning authority will act in isolation with regard to air quality. The government is committed to delivering 1 million new homes by 2020, and it is clear that the adverse air quality impacts of increased traffic, increased congestion and air pollution in pinch-points, will be experienced across more than one planning authority area and we are aware of no overarching strategy that can address this.
  • Within Kent, we are particularly concerned at the conflict between the requirement for air quality improvement and policies and decisions on transport. Kent’s channel corridors provide for the movement of some 60% of freight between the UK and mainland Europe. Kent County Council’s Freight Action Plan seeks to facilitate increased traffic, rather than engage in sustainable freight movement strategies which reduce the nation’s reliance on this route. The Port of Dover’s expansion plans will have concomitant impact on the highways network further afield, not least at the existing Dartford Crossings. It is because of the congestion, delays and exceedance of air quality limit values that already exist at Dartford that DfT recently announced a third Thames Crossing to be sited east of Gravesend. However, Highways England have acknowledged that the construction of this crossing would be expected to divert only 14% of the traffic using Dartford to the new crossing at Gravesend; it will not resolve the existing problems at Dartford, but it will create new problems at Gravesend.

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The end of the road?

CPRE Kent  has long argued that increased road building in fact leads to increased traffic, does not reduce journey times and does not bring the promised economic growth to areas. Plus it can destroy beautiful areas of countryside.

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Traffic by Jon Coller

New research published by CPRE today (March 20th) reveals that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while devastating the environment [1].

No wonder we are so concerned at the wisdom of potentially spending £3billion on a new Lower Thames Crossing east of Gravesend which would have a terrible economic impact and not solve the problem of congestion at the Dartford crossings.

The research, the largest ever independent review of completed road schemes in England, arrives as Highways England starts consulting on which road schemes will receive funding, set to triple to £3 billion a year by 2020 [2].

Drawing on the research, CPRE’s report The end of the road? directly challenges government claims that ‘the economic gains from road investment are beyond doubt’ [3]; that road-building will lead to ‘mile a minute’ journeys; and that the impact on the environment will be limited ‘as far as possible’ [4]. The report shows how road building over the past two decades has repeatedly failed to live up to similar aims. Continue reading

Reaction to the Autumn Statement

CPRE has reacted to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, where the Chancellor made a number of announcements on issues affecting the countryside.

Housing:

We have long been asking the Government to stop fixating on the planning system. Figures show that planning permissions are not the issue; the issue is that developers are not building the homes for which they have permission. Landbanking is a major problem and we are saying to developers to get on and build to deliver the housing we need.

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Paul Miner, planning campaign manager at the CPRE comments:

“Although we welcome a focus on brownfield development, we’re wary of moves to develop brownfield sites in the Green Belt – many Green Belt sites classed as ‘brownfield’ contain a lot of valuable open land, often historic parkland, which should be kept undeveloped. Continue reading