Air Pollution At Wisley should be treated under Planning as a Public Health Issue

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Roland McKinney writes another letter to the Guildford Dragon News about Air Pollution At Wisley and asks “Is A Public Health Issue Not A Planning One?”

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Roland McKinney is a Consultant for the Effingham Residents Association Executive Committee, a founder member of Hands Off The Green Belt and Guildford GreenBelt Group.  He recently wrote to the Guildford Dragon News about the risk of increasing air pollution on the busy A3. 

Roland McKinney says:

In previous comments on letters I’ve tried to highlight very poor air quality at Wisley, and it seems I need to do so again.

My apologies to readers for being tedious and long winded with this one, but I truly believe it to be important.

The proposed development site at Wisley is approximately 1.6 km south of the air quality monitoring station on the A3 slip road to the M25. This is a poor location for monitoring air quality as it is on a slip road, so not close to the main traffic flow, is set above the carriageways of the M25 and the A3 and as nitrogen dioxide is a dense gas; it tends to sink to ground level.

OS map of the area in question to illustrate points.

OS map of the area in question to illustrate points. Courtesy of Surrey County Council.

As the screen shot of the Surrey Interactive map shows, the slip road is to the west of the main A3 carriageway, and south west of the M25 carriageway – so prevailing westerly winds would tend to blow traffic fumes away from this monitoring station.

In short, this is a poor location to assess just how bad air quality is at this location.

Despite these limitations, this air quality station has consistently recorded nitrogen dioxide concentrations above the EU limit value deemed necessary to protect public health over an extended (several years) time frame. So it should be clear that air quality in this area is very poor indeed – and it follows that the air quality anywhere close to the A3 carriageway is likely to be poor too.

What the map shows is that the A3 arcs around the proposed site – and at the Wisley roundabout the edge of the proposed development is about 60 metres from the A3 carriageway. At this point this section of the A3 is roughly due west of the proposed development site.

The A3 carriageway is raised above the level of the roundabout and farm land to the east – and this means that prevailing westerly winds blow traffic fumes across the proposed site, with nitrogen dioxide hugging the ground, due to its high density.

As the proposed site forms the third side of a triangle with the other sides formed by the A3 and the M25 it is only when the wind is from the south that traffic fumes will not be blown across the site.

Given that we know that to the north of the site the air quality is very poor and does not meet the standard deemed necessary to protect public health, it would seem likely that this site will be troubled by poor air quality.

If Guildford Borough Council (GBC) have instigated an in depth review of air quality at this site – as they should have done – they have kept the results very quiet. They have not even declared an Air Quality Management Area, which they are required by law to do.

There are many effects of traffic-related air pollution on human health, but the article I am responding to reports the provision of a school on this proposed development site.

Recent research has shown that exposure to even moderate levels of air pollution reduces both lung development and cognitive development in children.

Conclusions suggest that there are likely to be consequences for learning, school achievement, behaviour and long term health.

These effects were recognised in the most recent review by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee Action on Air Quality, which included in their list of recommendations two on planning, one of which (8) is: “The Government should issue NPPF guidance which makes clearer the great importance of protecting good air quality including protecting green spaces in development planning. Specifically, the NPPF should make it impossible to build new schools, care homes or health clinics near existing air pollution hotspots, and any redevelopment of such existing buildings should only be approved if they reduce pollution exposure for their users….. ”

The simple truth is that thanks to GBC’s inaction we do not know the air quality on this proposed development site – but we know enough to be very wary.

What is needed is an extended in-depth evaluation conducted and managed by an independent third party (such as a university), examining in detail current air quality as well as the additive impact of about 4,000 additional vehicles of residents; together with the impact of all heating boilers, both domestic and those serving community facilities, such as the proposed school.

It would be sensible, given the location, to add in the impact of a number of solid fuel stoves, such as wood burning stoves.

This is a public health issue – not a planning issue. No permission for anything – let alone a school – should be given on this proposed development site until this public health issue is resolved.

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