Air Pollution and Peterborough City Council

Picture is at… and the status of the Air Quality Management Area (two small areas in Whittlesey) has not changed since 2007 when the breach of legal limits was notified to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Peterborough City Council’s other progress on air pollution since then:

Council has never had a public information campaign to stop domestic and commercial burning of landfill, construction and commercial wastes, which is particularly prevalent in high housing turnover areas close to the railway station. Smoke and smog affect visitors’ perceptions of the city as they step onto the platform and air quality has a serious and ongoing impact on residents’ health and wellbeing. Many people living in the city have actually forgotten what fresh air smells like: they are no longer aware they are living in smoggy conditions: they simply don’t smell the smoke any more. These fires (many of them illegal) are set in the evening, just as council officers go home and since they are usually “safe” (i.e. someone is supervising the fire and it isn’t getting out of control) the fire brigade is not required to take action.
Council decided to approve, construct and launch (2016) its very own landfill waste incinerator with Cllr Kreling (on the planning committee at the time of approval) observing that if she couldn’t see anything coming out of the stack (the planning committee was taken on a tour of a similar monster), nothing was coming out. The council has never agreed to and is not live streaming data about its emissions from the stack.
Peterborough Renewable Energy Limited who were the first to propose an incinerator for the city did agree to live stream their emissions data on their website. But this is not the incinerator which has gone live.
The Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor for East Ward, the ward with both planned incinerators sitting in it, offered to throw Richard Olive and me out of the council chamber She couldn’t throw us out because she couldn’t find a bailiff. But she was perfectly able to make a lousy decision without listening to evidence. For me, this was my introduction to the realities of politics in Peterborough. Most people have a vague sense of trust in their elected representatives. I lost whatever tiny bit I had left that day.
Between then and now council decided to knock down and pulverise numbers of large buildings made of brick, cement and plaster (Thomas Deacon School and several other predecessor-to-PFI schools, Bridge House, Peterborough District Hospital & assorted buildings on site). No dust suppression in place during the works and no coverage of the remaining mountains of dust (I observed the 20 ft high mountain of grey dust next to Aldermans Drive yesterday: 14th March 2016).
The Junction of Taverners Road with Bourges Boulevard is close to and downwind of the pile of pulverised sky scraper hospital and is also in a high density residential area. This junction is now close to breaching traffic pollution limits and that is according to official monitors. Are we surprised? Hardly. Cough Cough.
In London it has been shown that official monitoring is significantly understating the true state of affairs:…
People feel there is nothing they can do. But there are a few things.
  • More people need to observe democracy in action, even if it does mean risking getting thrown out of meetings. The dishonour of getting thrown out is not yours.
  • We could choose not to reelect councillors who fail to help improve air quality and who drive themselves around in heavy overpowered diesel vehicles.
  • We could vote in councillors who don’t drive. Or who drive electric, hybrid and low emissions vehicles. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated.
  • We could vote in councillors who understand that a 20mph speed limit in Peterborough’s residential streets would make cycling and walking pleasanter and would reduce the number of journeys taken by car.
  • We could find a real time air pollution app which relies on independent air monitoring and which works in Peterborough, so that we are not obliged to rely solely on council owned data.
  • The council could live stream its incinerator emissions and on street air pollution monitoring data on its website. If it is proud of what it is doing, there should be no qualms in showing off its achievements.

Author: Fiona Radic

Web Weaver, Network Cultivator

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