How do we all work together to maintain the fall in air pollution?
12 Jun 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone’s lives including all at West Suffolk Council, but one good thing that has come out of it is a dramatic fall in air pollution.
West Suffolk Council monitor air quality at 70 locations across the district with most of these located in town and close to major roads.
Although it was anticipated that pollution would reduce during lockdown, the amount it has reduced by was not. New analysis shows that compared to the same period last year pollution levels were approximately 45 per cent lower across West Suffolk for April with the worst polluted sites being less than half of that recorded last year. This comes at a time when a British Lung Foundation survey shows that around 16 per cent of people living with lung conditions in the UK said their symptoms have improved as a result of the fall in air pollution levels.
The UK Government’s Clean Air Strategy from 2019 states that long-term exposure to man-made air pollution in the UK results in some 28000 to 36000 people a year dying earlier than they would have.
Although air pollution in West Suffolk is generally not as bad as in many large UK cities, improving air quality is still important locally.
West Suffolk Council already owns one of the largest council owned solar farms in the country, producing renewable energy sold to the National Grid, while it has also been investing in other renewables including a ground source heat pump at West Stow. Both of these help the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
It has also been working with partners to secure greater infrastructure for electric vehicles, and prior to lockdown had begun a partnership with schools to clampdown on vehicle idling in targeted hotspots.
One of the worst areas of pollution in West Suffolk had been at Great Barton, but work with Suffolk County Council has seen this addressed through the moving of a crossing point from a built up area, allowing air pollutants to disperse.
Cllr John Griffiths said: “Friends of the Earth, named West Suffolk as one of the top areas in the UK for tackling climate change and supporting the environment late last year. But we are not resting on our laurels and recognise that more needs to , and can be , done.
“The Covid-19 crisis has been, and for many continues to be an awful experience. However, the wonderful efforts of so many volunteers and groups within our communities to help get through this, although not a surprise, is heartening and inspiring and we want and will continue to work with them beyond this crisis, to help improve the quality of life for everyone..
“In terms of the huge and welcome drop in air pollution – we recognise that much of this has arisen because of people having to stay at home, businesses having to stay closed, and schools having to stay shut. As things gradually start to reopen, we are determined to avoid pollution levels rocketing back up again. We would ask people to consider their alternatives. Can they work from home some of, if not all , the time, as many of West Suffolk Council’s staff are continuing to do? Can they walk or cycle to school, both as a way of keeping healthier themselves and helping to keep pollution down? We recognise that for some, dropping the children off at school and the distance to work, or the type of work they do, may not make these things practical. But for others, there are choices to make, and we all have a part to play in looking after our environment and where we live and work.”
For West Suffolk business looking to lower their impact on air quality and move to zero emission electric vehicles there are a number of grants available, including the West Suffolk Greener Business Grant. For further details please visit www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/environment