Dartford Liberal Democrats call for action to cut deadly air pollution
Dartford Liberal Democrats have today called for immediate and coordinated action to cut air pollution in the Dartford area, which Public Health England has declared the most dangerous in Kent.
Dartford has one of the highest death rates from air pollution in Kent, with The National Colleges of Physicians and Pedestrians estimating that up to 40,000 people die from breathing dirty air nationwide every year.
While European Courts have consistently demanded that the UK take action to protect people from deadly air pollution, both local and national governments have resisted taking responsibility for the problem.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Dartford’s busy A282, which in 2013 was shown to be the second most polluted road in the country, was misclassified as a ‘rural road’ and thus escaped official air quality assessments.
Ashley Wassall, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dartford West in next month’s County Council Elections, has called for the council to take this problem much more seriously. “The latest Kent Country Council transport plans contain no real environmental assessment and offer almost no improvements to public transport. Public transport options to relieve congestion at the Dartford Crossing have also been ignored.
“This is not good enough for the people of Dartford. We need better public transport for Dartford residents. The time has come for a formal review into pollution and health in Dartford.”
Dr Simon Beard, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Dartford, added, “the UK government has failed us on air pollution for too long, shortening the lives of thousands of people. For years, the European Union has been doing its best to hold them to account on this issue, and there is a real danger that after BREXIT the government will just feel let off the hook.
“The people of Dartford are especially badly hit by this inactivity because Dartford is expected to bear the brunt of a regional transport infrastructure that is woefully inadequate for present needs. Improving the quality of the air we breathe should be a top priority for any government. We all deserve better than this.”
A new Thames crossing is not the whole solution
There are some who believe that the scandal of poor air quality in Dartford can be solved simply by building a new Thames Crossing. However, Dartford Liberal Democrats argue that this will prove little more than a sticking plaster.
“Let's be clear: a new crossing will NOT solve Dartford's traffic and congestion problems - and cannot solve the long-term problem of pollution and its impact on residents' health on its own” Argues Ashley Wassell.
“It is widely expected that the new crossing will offset just 14% of the traffic at the current Dartford Crossing. That traffic is rising rapidly, as shown by the revenue generated by the crossing, which rose by £60 million in the last year.
“This is why Liberal Democrats are calling for a whole new approach to infrastructure planning in the Thames Estuary that puts dealing with this issue front and centre. Congestion and pollution are not separate problems!”
Simon Beard added, “a starting point could be a new, comprehensive public transport plan at the current crossing, which Kent Liberal Democrats have shown could offset 10% of current car traffic.”
“Not only will this do much to help protect Dartford residents from dangerous air pollution, but it will also give greater freedom to residents to travel as they wish. For people like me, who cannot drive for reasons of disability or age, the Dartford Crossing is an inaccessible barrier - and this has to change.”
Dartford Liberal Democrats are calling for action on dangerous air pollution not only for the benefit of Dartford Residents but also as part of our responsibility to our children and their future.
“I want to make sure that in 30 years, when my son is my age, we have made a real, positive difference to appalling air quality in Dartford,” Ashley Wassall argues. “However welcome, simply building a new Thames crossing will not do that.”
“A few years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Asthma, a condition that is widely believed to be connected with poor air quality,” added Simon Beard. “Dangerously polluted air, like the air in Dartford, is doing real harm right now, and this will continue until we take the necessary steps to make our air fit to breathe again.”
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