Air Quality Statement to WNC meeting, 22 February 2024

Air Quality Statement to WNC meeting, 22 February 2024
Photo credit: Dave Pearson

Dave Pearson, a leading Northamptonshire campaigner for clean air, gave a statement to West Northamptonshire Councillors at their Council Meeting.

Read it in full below, or watch the recording of the WNC meeting on YouTube - Dave's statement starts 17 minutes in.

It's also worth watching the subsequent statement, from Tina Matthew of the 1000 Voices campaign. Tina introduces activists handing out 102 fake death certificates signifying estimated premature deaths due to air pollution per year in our area. These activists are carrying out well-thought-out and respectful protests because they are rightly concerned about the impact on our health of the poor air quality in West Northamptonshire. Please take a minute to sign up to their campaign to show your support.

West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) is currently consulting on a draft Air Quality Action Plan. There is a link underneath Dave's statement to the consultation, which closes on 17 March. CA-WN will respond to the consultation, and will share our response on CA-WN Exchange. Consultations are not necessarily fun to read through and reply to, but we really do recommend using them as a way to tell the council what you think about key topics - and what could be more vital than the need to breathe clean air?

Dave Pearson's statement

I am speaking on behalf of Clean Air Northamptonshire.
Budgeting is about priorities and values. The highest priority for this council is surely to protect the lives of its citizens. Public Health England estimates that 102 people die in Northampton each year due to air pollution, and thousands more survive with the debilitating consequences of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, dementia, asthma and stroke.
Successive councils have dragged their feet for two decades on Northampton’s toxic air. The only tangible mitigation thus far being a bus lane on the Weedon Road. There was almost a cycle lane on the Billing Road, but you chickened out at the slightest opposition. Despite having seven Air Quality Management Areas, this council had no action plans to tackle them, nor indeed an air quality officer to devise them year after year.
It wasn’t until DEFRA began a disciplinary process on 31st August last year that things started to happen. An air quality officer was finally appointed, but only part-time. DEFRA sent a letter in October warning the council about its lack of an air quality action plan. The cabinet said nothing. DEFRA sent a final warning letter in December. The councillors were not informed. The final step in the process is a ministerial letter with a Section 85 direction, due next week. Is that why a draft action plan has been published for consultation this week? Does this council think so little of its citizens that protecting their lives is only acted upon when faced with legal sanction by central government?
Northampton’s toxic air scandal is a litany of procrastination, obfuscation, concealment, denial and delay. The next week brings both uncertainty and certainty. It remains to be seen whether this reluctant attempt to finally produce an action plan is sufficient to avert ministerial sanction. But what is certain is that next week two more people will struggle to draw their penultimate breath, then their ultimate breath, then struggle no more.
Shame on you all.
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