Brentford Air Quality Public meeting on 17th January 2017
21 January 2017
'The huge turnout for this event shows how strongly local people feel about air pollution and all the other problems that over-dependence on cars bring to local communities,' said Victoria George, Hounslow Green Party's representative on Air Quality Brentford, the voluntary group behind Tuesday night's meeting.
More than 150 members of the local community braved the cold weather on Tuesday evening to hear Professor Frank Kelly, Caroline Russell and Ruth Cadbury describe the serious impact traffic has on air quality and health. Professor Kelly, a leading environmental health academic, was unequivocal about the relationship between diesel emissions, poor health and premature deaths, stating that ill health from air pollution is the second most common cause of early death after smoking.
Caroline Russell said that we needed a total shift in priorities: “Cars have dominated our city for much too long. It is time to put people first. Our communities are blighted by traffic, and this is clearly damaging our health.” She added that “you are more exposed to pollution inside a car than outside, and that's a very good reason not to use a car, and, of course, there are the huge added health benefits of regular walking and cycling.”
The meeting was organised by Air Quality Brentford, a local voluntary group. Ruth Cadbury commended their work, and went on to focus on the A4/M4 corridor. She commented that a third runway at Heathrow would vastly add to the traffic passing through Brentford to Heathrow. A 47% increase in freight, and similar increases in other traffic is predicted. She added that “proposals from the Airport Commission for increasing capacity with a tunnel through Brentford are positively alarming. Major work of this kind would be phenomenally expensive and would cause untold disruption and damage to the health and well being of our community.”
Presentations were followed by lively discussions, including a heart-rending description from Jaqui Mcbeth, a Brentford resident, who has to cross the A4 every day with her young children to get them to school. “When we are waiting in the central reservation, I am often close to tears – it feels so dangerous, I hold them tightly to me but still really fear for their safety.”
Steve Curran, Leader of Hounslow Council, pledged to meet with TFL as a matter of urgency to address the health and safety issues along the A4 in Brentford. Improvements could include reducing the speed limit to 30 mph. He also asked residents to send him their suggestions for other measures the council could take to improve air quality in the area.
Finally, one of the strongest sentiments to come out of the meeting was that the community needs to work together to put people before cars. It was agreed that everyone has a part to play – leave the car at home, get walking, get campaigning and definitely ditch the diesel!
Professor Frank Kelly is Director of the Environmental Health Group at King's College, London.
Caroline Russell is a member of the London Assembly and Green Party Spokesperson for Local Transport.
Ruth Cadbury is MP for Brentford & Isleworth
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