SBC COUNCILLORS, OFFICIALS & DEVELOPERS TELL US POLLUTION IS GOING AWAY.
A SIMPLE TRUTH: There is an idiotic idea in the Council that if you join 11,500 new homes (20,000+ more cars and new commercial sites generating more traffic) to the A2 between Sittingbourne and Greenstreet the drivers will only go north or south. Apparently, none of the new traffic will turn right or left along the A2 and all the existing traffic will ... ... somehow change their behaviour? As I said, idiotic.
- We should be given a true and balanced picture of the mix and level of the four toxic pollutants associated with vehicles.
- Central Government has told Local Authorities they should take action on all four most harmful pollutants, especially where there are AQMAs..
[Updated] On 20th March 2019, we read (Part 1 & Part 2 of the news article) that the then Council Leader Andrew Bowles was a firm supporter of the addition of 11,500 additional homes (the so-called "Garden Community"). This did not come as a surprise given his Ward location - outside Faversham. Since the Local Elections, it is anyone's guess where the Council willl go as the SBC Officials will be working hard for the "line of least resistance" - namely, they will probably promote the idea of the same development. They will point to the risk of going head to head with National Planning targets - that assumes that the housing targets cannot be reached by distributing housing where it meets social and economic needs. Of course, a more graduated approach will lead to more work for the Officials - their recruitment of new "Garden Community Officers" may need to be rebadged - "U-turn Officers".
If approved, housing will fill the entire space between the A2 and M2 and between Sittingbourne and the western edge of Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish (Dully Lane). This would dwarf the many new homes already being built within the Borough Plan. We already face the inevitable pollution from new build in Bapchild, Teynham and Ospringe. Councillor Bowles argued that the A2 will see a reduction in traffic, ignoring any existing natural flows between Faversham, Sittingbourne and and those living and working along the A249 ...
It is also utter foolishness to hand over such a large project to one building consortium. That will remove all meaningful control and supervision by SBC officials and Councillors over the coming years. We will be stuck with a "one plan fits all" and hang the health of existing communities.
SBC Officials and Councillors should be protecting us against harmful pollution. Instead, any misdirection is designed to deny us a voice in defence of our future health and those of our most vulnerable neighbours, workers and visitors.
Some problems spring immediately to mind:-
- To improve traffic flow along the A249 towards the M20, there are plans to improve the roundabout at the junction with the A2. There is a question mark hanging over a possible lack of finance. This may change in due course - the gap was only £20m at the last count.
- An additional "Garden Community" Junction with the M2/A249: It is far from certain that an additional junction will be approved by Maidstone KCC to serve any "garden community" to the south of Sittingbourne. That uncertainty is ducked by SBC Council Leader Councillor Andrew Bowles (Part 1 & Part 2 of the news article) who may have to call on support from KCC Cabinet Member, SBC Councillor Mike Whiting (who is KCC Cabinet Member for Planning, Highways, Transport and Waste and is SBC Councillor for our Ward).
- If you live in a "Garden Community" you won't visit the centres of Sittingbourne or Faversham using the A2 ... The hope is that existing traffic between Sittingbourne and Faversham and further afield will to divert along the Southern Relief Road. That may be true of some commercial journeys from Sittingbourne industrial estates. SBC has failed to make a decent link road between the industrial estates and the A249 and it is this failure in strategic thinking that makes the idea of a Southern Relief road superficially seductive to SBC. The idea of a new junction with the M2 is open to question and there is no clear evidence from SBC on how 11,500 homes will not empty along the A2 - schools, doctors, dentists, visits, shopping, eating, even entertainment at Sittingbourne's spanking new entertainment complex, etc, etc.
No discussion and no vote. For as long as SBC are able to get away with their unsubstantiated assumptions, the closer they move to making decisions that tie their hands with Quinns and we shall have to 'lump it'. SBC officials are already advertising for several permanent appointments for officers to deliver on the "garden community" idea. I feel that this leaves our an important step - public consultation? We are not being asked whether the "garden community" delivers a better outcome for Swale residents and local employment rather than balanced developments around the Borough to meet local needs and conditions.
- SBC has limited its measurements to the use of single "Diffusion Tubes" for Teynham/Lynsted (Greenstreet) - you can find out where they are using this link. SBC's objective is to measure annual concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx). This is achieved by measuring from time-to-time and then averaging the results out across the whole year. "Diffusion Tubes" cannot measure all the "High" Level pollution events (harmful if over 24 hours duration) and "Very High" Levels of pollution (harmful if over 1 hour duration). Examples of "exceedances" can be found in the Pollution Diary. "Diffusion Tubes" do not measure toxic levels of PM2.5, PM10, and VOCs.
- 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report (ASR). SBC's focus is largely fixed on Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) - ignoring the other three toxic pollutions closely associated with vehicles.
- It is ironic that SBC's own web site helpfully includes useful summaries of the differences between several pollutants - while at the same time refusing to measure them in real time! It is clear that SBC knows about and understand what Central Government is telling them, but SBC are determined not to test for those pollutants in "real time".
- The Maidstone Ghost. SBC have claimed that measurements made in a street in Maidstone allows them to extrapolate the balance of all pollutants to our conditions along the A2. This logic is daft on so many levels!
A Maidstone street is distinct because it is in Maidstone. Maidstone has its own problems of complex roads, nearby industry, local services that draw in traffic from a wide area, traffic management systems, and so on.
The only thing we have in common with Maidstone is that they have roads and so do we. If SBC believes its own arguments, we are to be haunted by this mysterious ghost of Maidstone that has very little in common with conditions we face on the A2.
- DVLA Data "tells us all we need to know about pollution". SBC used fixed cameras to record vehicle registration plates of all vehicles passing through AQMA5. SBC then cross-referenced that data with DVLA records, which told SBC the make and model of each vehicle. SBC took that data and compared it with the technical specification for those vehicles to provide a 'reliable measure of pollution levels'.
Is there anything wrong with this approach?
- Vehicle manufacturers' pollution data has proved "unreliable" in recent times!
- Manufacturer's data tells you what a car's emissions are in very controlled conditions. Showroom cars are not like second hand for example;
- The data only tells you about engine emissions (NOx). It tells you nothing about PM2.5, PM10 and VOCs;
- The data tells you nothing about the stage of each journey recorded in a snapshot - how many vehicles were running cold at the beginning of their journey when there tends to be inefficient burning of fuel before catalyst converters are up to temperature and exhaust recycling has only just got going?
- The data tells you nothing about the speed of the traffic - so no account is given of the wear of brake pads and brake discs, nor any account of tyres wearing against road surface compounds creating PM2.5 in particular;
- The data tells you nothing about wind direction nor strength that can flush the street one day and concentrate pollution on another day;
- The data tells you nothing about vehicle maintenance and driving style - all of which change exhaust emissions and friction particles;
There is a solution. Measure all four toxic pollutants associate with traffic in "real time" under real conditions at all times of day and night and over an extended period.
Don't we deserve the same level of due care and attention that Swale Borough Council offers Ospringe and parts of Sittingbourne? Until then, we can expect more "smoke and mirrors" from SBC as they demonstrate just how much contempt they have for our health and well being as well as evidence-based policy making.