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Councils urged to work together in the fight against air pollution

A LOCAL campaigner has called on the Melksham Area Board to lead the effort to reduce air pollution in the town.

Member of the Melksham age-friendly steering group on Melksham Area Board, Brian Warwick, says that air pollution is a problem for all ages in the community and that the area board should seek the support of Wiltshire Council, Melksham Town Council and Melksham Without Parish Council to help tackle the problem.

“As part of our Age Friendly project I strongly believe we need to make an early start to become far more proactive in tackling this problem,” said Brian. “The UK has one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe, with the rate of people dying from an asthma attack increasing by more than 20% in the last five years.

“I am deeply concerned at the deterioration in air quality, particularly along the A350 and the town centre and the increases in reported asthma sufferers. I have taken the liberty of discussing it with a local GP , who also has expressed concerns in the increases of asthma and allied conditions.

“At risk are particularly people with diabetes, lung disease (such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer) or heart disease (such as angina, a history of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat) are more sensitive to air pollution.

“Seniors are at even higher risk because of weakening of the heart, lungs and immune system and increased likelihood of health problems such as heart and lung disease.

“Our children are also becoming far more vulnerable to air pollution; they have less-developed respiratory and defence systems. Children as we are aware also spend more time outdoors being physically active, which can increase their exposure to air pollution.

“I am therefore again raising the subject, because I do not believe sufficient effort is presently being made in achieving an early solution to resolving these concerns, especially by our planners, highways or even public health. There is a growing tendency to keep putting off decisions that have financial implications. However in the case of the desirability to improve air quality, even the Department of Environment has this year announced additional funding. The Clean Air Act of 1956 achieved remarkable success in reducing air pollution, we now need to take even tougher measures.”

Brian is also urging Wiltshire Council to fight to be included in the next stages of the Government’s clean air strategy to help combat air pollution. Earlier this year, the Government launched a £220million Clean Air Fund  to support the ‘UK plan for tackling roadside nitrogen dioxide concentration’.

More than £40million from the £255million fund was awarded directly to local authorities with the worst levels of air pollution to help them take action as soon as possible to improve air quality. However, Wiltshire Council, due to its rural nature, was not included.

Brian said, “We need to ensure that because of the extra traffic along the M4 corridor and the A350 to southern ports, we have a strong case to be included in the next stages of the national clean air strategies.”

Wiltshire Council was approached for comment, but had not responded by the time the paper went to print.

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