Lib Dem MEP for Gloucestershire Sir Graham Watson has written to the new Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson demanding an investigation into the high levels of air pollution in the Birdlip area following discussions with Cotswold District Councillor for Churn Valley Paul Hodgkinson.
Councillor Hodgkinson approached Sir Graham to ask what could be done about the high levels of Nitrogen Oxide (NO2) in the area off the A417. Whilst air quality policy falls under EU law, it is up to central government and local authorities to meet targets to reduce air pollution in the interests of public health. Currently the South West is failing to meet its targets to reduce air pollution, particularly when it comes to transport.
Sir Graham commented, “We need Whitehall to get to the bottom of this. Already a number of local residents are beginning to show signs of asthma and for too long this issue has been passed from one department to the other like a hot potato.
“Since the abolition of regional bodies such as the Government Office of the South West, it appears not enough is being done to bring local councils and bodies such as the Highways Agency together to see what can be done to tackle issues such as air pollution.
“I will await the answers of the Secretary of State. I hope DEFRA will take these concerns very seriously and ensure something can be done to sort this out and tackle what is a major public health issue. I also wish to see more steps being taken to bring communities together to discuss proposals on reducing air pollution. Whilst public transport in rural areas has always been a systemic problem, more can and should be done.
Councillor Hodgkinson, also opposition leader at Cotswold District Council commented, “Residents living near the Air Balloon junction are very concerned about the effects of pollution. Their lives have been transformed as the road has got busier and busier and they are unable to sit outside due to the constant traffic right outside their homes. Having spoken to them all they want is action to be taken – I’m very pleased our MEP acknowledges that DEFRA should act to improve the situation.”