I am one of the ward Councillors for Castle, in Northampton. It includes the Town Centre which has some of the most polluted areas in West Northants. Much of this is caused by traffic: traffic congestion; idling cars; poor town planning. This is really bad for employees in the town who suffer the consequences day in day out.
The people most affected by poor air quality are women and children. This is because it is often women who hang around schools waiting for children, and who tend to walk along local pavements on busy roads more.
Working class women, black and white, tend to live closer to busy roads, are more likely to live in flats, are at home more. Research shows that black women, in particular, are disproportionately affected.
We know there is growing concern about pollution in cars and in buildings. Buildings are porous. Polluted air does not stay outside.
Poor air quality impacts pregnant women, causing some to deliver low birth weight babies and babies to be born with respiratory issues.
We know that asthma in children is increasing and the severity of it is increasing. When I work with school councils and ask if there is one thing they would like me to raise at Council, I am often told, “please stop the cars coming near my school”.
My group of ward Councillors has raised issues to do with air quality around the Barratt Maternity Unit at Northampton General. I don’t understand why there isn’t an outcry about levels of pollution there. There is a car park with idling cars directly beneath the unit. There are busy roads, often with traffic jams and idling cars on 4 sides of the hospital. How is that OK? It’s not.
In response to a question I raised recently I received an answer back showing WNC is using previous guidelines for what is acceptable levels at 40mg/m3 not the current threshold, which is 10mg/m3.
This really is not good enough.
During the extreme heat last Summer, I was really alarmed about the health and safety of parents, mainly women, and their children, stuck inside flats all day, with no ventilation or clean air. Some I visited were in a state of considerable distress. Our social housing provider, NPH (Northamptonshire Partnership Homes), is really good and made welfare checks when asked to.
WNC Labour group put forward ideas for improvement - all the time.
They are voted down - all the time.
We have asked for:
- a public transport policy and a plan to take bus services back in house.
- clean air zones around hospitals, care homes and schools
- a campaign followed by enforcement action to stop cars idling
- clean, safe and green public spaces
- safe cycling and scooter routes protected from traffic
- free bus passes for the under 18s
- an end to the use of diesel buses in Northampton.