A controversial series of policies could be seriously damaging the health of people in Northampton, a former MP claims after pollution figures revealed the area around the town’s bus station to be 25 per cent higher than legal limits.
The Green Party has been carrying out a series of air quality checks in the town over the past six months using industry standard methods employed by councils up and down the land.
But their latest batch of results show the area around the £7 million North Gate bus station to be well above the legal limits.
The EU set upper watermark for nitrogen dioxide is 40 micrograms per cubic metre - but outside the oft clogged-up streets around North Gate, that figure is 53 micrograms.
Former Northampton South MP and now Green Party member Tony Clarke, said: “This is a problem wholly created and given life by the council.
“Over the last few years they have taken decisions to build in the wrong areas, to open up pedestrian areas to cars and to de-regulate taxi emissions standards.
“This is affecting the health of the people in Northampton and the public consultation does little to address this issue.”
Northampton Borough Council launched its “low-emmissions strategy” consultation, which aims to improve the air quality around Northampton in June.
The authority is looking at setting up a series of low emission zones, convincing drivers in the town to buy cleaner
vehicles and looking at encouraging bus companies to make their fleet more eco-friendly.
But Mr Clarke believes this consultation barely pays “lip service” to the extent of the pollution problem in Northampton.
He also says the latest figures provide a compelling reason to re-site the North Gate bus station and to pedestrianise Abington Street again.
He said: “They have to start looking at this bus station as just a temporary solution now. They can’t keep polluting at illegal levels.”
Mr Clarke says the borough and county councils need to drastically review its cycle lanes as a matter of urgency. The Green Party has challenged the borough council to fast-track a process to establish North Gate as an “air quality management area”.
However the authority’s cabinet member for the environment, Councillor Alan Bottwood said the council will almost certainly not be doing that.
He said: “We have monitored the air quality at North Gate and are aware that the levels of nitrogen dioxide recorded have sometimes breached the national air quality objectives. We remain committed to improving air quality across Northampton .
“We do not intend to declare North Gate as an Air Quality Management Area at present. “Air Quality Management Areas are designed to tackle issues in very specific locations, whereas our new strategy sets out an alternative, more holistic, approach to managing air quality throughout the borough. It’s our goal to address this issue for the whole town rather than limiting our focus to set locations. The actions that will come out of the strategy will address the issues at North Gate without the risk of simply moving the problem elsewhere.”