LETTER: Creating public health issue

Coupled with all of the Chichester housing developments being planned, and already under construction, the recent press coverage on the removal of the A27 funding, unless an online option was accepted, is disturbing.

Simple arithmetic from the 41 months of construction (HE’s data for the online Option 2 that was rejected by the public) equals more rat runs through the city exacerbating the current air quality problem in the city.

This is on top of increased traffic movements, from both housing and retail developments.

Unless our local authorities stand up to central government, they are creating a public health issue.

For those residents living in the already three AQMAs (Air Quality Managed Area) ie Orchard Street, Stockbridge Road, and St Pancras, alarm bells should be ringing.

There are other areas in the city which are not monitored but have become increasingly gridlocked.

Arguably, the air quality through these rat runs (eg Sherbourne Road, Westgate, St Paul’s Road, Spitalfield Lane, Westhampnett Road, Bradshaw Road, Swanfield Drive, and Church Lane) would also exceed pollution levels. Alarm bells should also be ringing in the ears of residents living in these areas of the city.

The majority of people who expressed a no option to the HE preferred option during the public consultation are not anti housing, are not anti retail developments and welcomed the Louise Goldsmith initiative.

However, the voice of concern for public health, has not been heard loud enough.

I would argue that public health should trump any traffic construction solution, that is likely to increase traffic movements in the city. Subsequent to a High Court judgment, the Government (Department of Transport and DEFRA), has been forced to publish their July 2017 UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations.

If CDC were really serious about an effective air quality plan, then the number one priority should be to have all options for the A27 back on the table and leverage the public health issue to obtain a share of the funding the Government has announced, (£255 million Implementation Fund).

If that is what is required to get a long term, non sticking plaster solution for the A27, then the public should rally around the BaBA27 initiative and challenge our local authorities to unite and deliver on that initiative.

It remains to be seen whether, or not, the outcome of the planned mid September full council meeting reflects the views, expressed by cllr Dignum from his straw poll, at the BaBA27 meeting.

Listed are some facts that should be of interest to the public.

CDC own the AQAP and the Local plan.

WSCC have public health & Highways Authority responsibility.

Fact 1 – In 2008 , CDC produced an AQAP (air quality action plan) for the three areas previously mentioned.

We are now in 2017 and none of the three areas yet comply with the UK air quality objective. (Clearly traffic movements have increased since then), but no matter how the cake is cut, the AQAP is not delivering improvement.

My view – having read the latest revision, despite CDC having a very clear understanding of the challenges, it offers little or no action to bring about substantial improvement.

Fact 2 – The CDC AQAP states that particulate matter PM2.5 is a pollutant of significant importance regarding public health and, that the major contributor to Chichester not complying with air quality objectives is from cars.

Diesel exhaust gasses and PM2.5, which is known to cause vascular damage triggering heart attacks and strokes, can affect residents living in polluted area.

Recent studies on PM2.5 are reporting the risk of brain disorders, such as dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fact 3 – The CDC AQAP states that the local plan implies the building of a minimum of 450 houses per year 2015/2029 will result in additional traffic movements and has the potential to impact on air quality.

Fact 4 (or more correctly not quite a fact) – I have heard, and read, that northern options were not put forward at last year’s public consultation on cost grounds.

I have subsequently heard that despite efforts under the Disclosure of Information Act, HE have not yet delivered the costs.

(This makes it difficult to quantify the delta, if there is one, to put on the table an option that DfT and DEFRA know would be best for public health, and offer a long-term highways solution as part of the South Central Route Strategy.)

Readers/residents will I hope come to their own conclusions and watch with interest the position on whether or not public health trumps traffic solutions for Chichester in the coming months.