MEP for the Liberal Democrats in Gloucestershire Sir Graham Watson has now taken the campaign to reduce air pollution at the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417 to the Highways Agency.
This follows on from a letter sent to the Department for the Environment (DEFRA) earlier in the autumn and further discussions between local district Councillor Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley) with local campaigners. In their response, DEFRA highlighted that no enforcement action had been taken against local councils for failing to adhere to air quality regulations. They also stated that it is up to the District and County authorities to work with the Highways Agency to tackle these matters.
Despite a disclosure from DEFRA of a number of planned improvements to the roundabout, Councillor Hodgkinson does not believe this will be enough and also believes the work between authorities has been frustratingly slow.
In agreement with Coberley Parish Council and local residents, the Cotswold District Councillor believes a compulsory purchase order should be placed on the affected properties. Watson has written to the Highways Agency to encourage them to look urgently into these proposals.
Watson commented, ”Whilst I am pleased to see that the Highways Agency is looking at ways to reduce pollution, clearly the local community feels one possible option is being neglected. That is why I have written to the Highways Agency, who are now responsible for working with the county’s highways department, to ask if this option could be seriously considered.
“I have also highlighted the slow progress which has been made and urged all parties to step up the necessary work. The people affected around the junction have waited far too long for action.”
Councillor Hodgkinson, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Cotswold District Council, commented, “It is a sad situation we face in which residents fear for their ongoing health whilst there appears to be no real will to face the problem and tackle it head on. Compulsorily purchasing the houses instead of changing the junction layout will take away the air quality problem for those homeowners once and for all.”
“The proposed junction changes barely change the air pollution according to the Highways Agency’s own estimates. Not only that but they may have a huge adverse impact on traffic levels in the surrounding villages and that’s why there must be a full consultation on them before any pilot happens.”