26 October 2016
During 2016, the local Green Party in Northampton has been fighting a campaign to improve public awareness of air pollution in the town. There are six long-established Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) in the town centre, and a succession of administrations have done little to address this.
An FOI at the start of the year revealed that the Council were working on a Draft Low Emissions Strategy, and that they planned to go to Public Consultation in the Summer.
The Council's website is failing to keep people informed. There is no current data available regarding the levels of air pollution, and until the public consultation started, there was little information regarding strategy.
Following the excellent example of local parties in other parts of the country, the Northampton Green Party started to measure air quality themselves at known pinch points, both within Air Quality Management Areas and elsewhere in the town. Committing to make the data instantly available, they used Google Maps to plot the data and to show where concentrations had been recorded above the legal limits.
As well as using funds from members, a small Crowdfunder appeal raised money for some additional tubes, and donations were received from two Resident's Associations within the affected areas.
The Council didn't do a lot to publicise the Consultation, which drew to a close at the end of October. The Green Party were interviewed about it both on BBC Look East, and on BBC Northampton. Towards the end of the period, results from our campaign made it to the front page of the local paper and the lead item on local radio news. The Scrutiny committee have confirmed that they will be happy for the Green Party to present witness evidence to their review.
What does this all mean? At the moment, it's difficult to say. Obviously, the hope is that by making people aware of the issue, there might be more public engagement with the Low Emission Strategy. More widely, the strategy isn't particularly comprehensive - it assumes that Air Quality problems will be solved by people moving to Low Emission Vehicles. Hopefully this will be reflected to some degree in the Scrutiny Review.
Regardless, the campaign continues and the scope is widening. With plans to start measuring in Wellingborough and Towcester, as well as more work in Northampton, there's a lot to do. But it's not a problem that's going to go away, particularly if it's left to the current Conservative administrations.