Environmental campaigners from Extinction Rebellion in Ipswich took the message that things have to change after the Covid-19 lockdown is eased to the town’s main council offices.

Ipswich Star: Members of Extinction Rebellion protested outside Suffolk County Council's offices in Ipswich. Picture: XR IPSWICHMembers of Extinction Rebellion protested outside Suffolk County Council's offices in Ipswich. Picture: XR IPSWICH (Image: Archant)

They said it could not be “business as normal” once all restrictions are eased – and that people will have to try harder to cut pollution.

The Ipswich demonstration was one of a number across the country, including a protest in Westminster, where members of the group drew attention to how air had become cleaner during lockdown. All the protesters stood three metres apart from each other – observing enhanced social distancing.

Sarah Matthews has been cycling from her home, west of the town centre, to work at Ipswich Hospital during lockdown – but said that, in normal times, it is not safe to cycle on busy roads.

She said: “I know the council is talking of improving things for cyclists, but are they actually going to spend the money they need to make it safe? And why do so many people have to drive to the town centre? I can understand it for those who have disabilities, but not for everyone else.”

She pointed out that in parts of central Ipswich, especially around Chevallier Street, during normal times pollution levels regularly exceeded legal limits.

A statement from XR Ipswich said: “It’s becoming more and more evident each day that the government isn’t capable of getting us out of the coronavirus mess, or preparing us for future crises. They are more concerned with getting us back to “normal” as rapidly as possible.

“And the coronavirus crisis has shown us what’s possible when the political will is there. Everything can change. There can be no going back to the way things were.

“As well as exercising our bodies we also exercise our right, under the Human Rights Act, to protest. We protest safely for the future health and safety of our planet and generations of all life.

“As we have recently seen, Suffolk County Council was able to act in a matter of days in response to a crisis threatening the health and wellbeing of our communities. Why then, with a crisis of such enormous magnitude and consequently much greater risk to people, have they done nothing in relation to local ecological issues such as the illegal levels of air pollution in Ipswich?”

Suffolk County Council Cabinet member for Ipswich Paul West said the lockdown has shown how things can change when there is less traffic on the roads: “There are things we can learn from that, but it is not realistic to think that people will not want to come into the town. We have to support businesses and their need for people to be able to get to them.”