9 March 2017
BBC Northampton is covering the air pollution problem at length this week. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a massive public health issue, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s of great concern to the listeners to the show.
Today they decided to focus on the traffic congestion in the town centre. The Managing Director of Stagecoach Midlands has submitted evidence to the Low Emissions Strategy Scrutiny Panel this week, and in it, he suggests that there will be a need to restrict car access to many areas of the town.
I don’t think this is particularly controversial. I’ve been banging on for the past year that the way to reduce air pollution in the town centre is to reduce the number of vehicles in the town centre. It seems pretty straightforward to me, and that was one of the points I made this morning when Stuart Linnell spoke to me about it on the Breakfast show.
Amongst other things, I also made the point that the new Bus Station is the wrong Bus Station in the wrong place, and the Borough Council are contributing to the problem because their Free Parking offer is encouraging people to drive into the town centre. Again – most of these seemed to me to be pretty uncontroversial points.
But, an hour later, the Cabinet Member for the Environment was on the radio. I expected him to argue the toss over some of the points, but as well as claiming that the Free Parking offer was a huge success and that there is no chance of it being cut, he made the point that Private Diesel vehicles in London are only responsible for 11% of the air pollution in London, and so we should make sure we focus on the other 89%. He liked this point so much, he made it a couple of times.
It’s rubbish of course.
London is busier than Northampton. Of course it is. London has a much bigger air pollution problem than Northampton – parts of London exceeded the annual NO2 limits within weeks of 2017 starting. And one thing that might have had an affect – London’s had a congestion charge for the past 14 years. Only a fool or a politician would use data from one of the busiest cities in the world and suggest that it’s relevant to Northampton.