Action demanded over Ipswich pollution hotspots after 13 years

Gridlocked traffic in Star Lane, Ipswich. The task force will assess means of improving Ipswich traf

Star Lane in Ipswich is one area of town where air quality is monitored - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have called on Suffolk council leaders to be more transparent about air quality in Ipswich - and deliver on an action plan penned 13 years ago.

Ipswich CAN, a collection of organisations, businesses and individuals fighting for reduced pollution over the last nine months, has written to the leaders of Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council calling on them to take leadership and urgency over the issue of Ipswich's air quality.

The group's chief requests are for a sustained communications campaign which lays bare the situation, the health impacts of poor air quality and behavioural changes people should start making.

They also want the authority to start to deliver on the Air Quality Action Plan formed in 2008.

Other demands include planning for reduced town centre traffic and alternative transport, more community engagement on the issue and a review of all spending plans to ensure they do not conflict with environment aims.

Norwich Road roundabout

The junction of Norwich Road, Chevallier Street and Valley Road in Ipswich is one area where air quality is monitored closely - Credit: Google Maps

Tony Horner from Ipswich CAN, said: "I think now more than ever we need to do something about air pollution.

"We have been asking for specific actions all about informing and advising [the public] - tell us what we can do about this, what the health risks are.

"It won't cost a lot of money, but to know and not to tell is dreadful."

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He added: "Ipswich Borough and Suffolk County Council say we have a Defra-approved plan but it doesn't do anything."

Ipswich currently has five air quality management areas (AQMAs) - areas where high nitrogen dioxide levels are recorded and data monitored regularly for changes.

These are located in traffic hotspots such as the Norwich Road mini roundabouts and the Star Lane one-way system, but proposals are underway to remove one currently at the Bramford Road/Chevallier Street junction.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere was surprised to hear of Mr Holdcroft's comments. Picture: JAMES AGER

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said measures in the air quality action plan can only be delivered with investment by the government and county council - Credit: James Ager

Liberal Democrat councillor at Ipswich Borough Council, Oliver Holmes, questioned why funding was only now being committed to address air quality when the plan was first published more than a decade ago.

Borough council leader, David Ellesmere, said: "This borough council has responsibility to monitor air quality, and the action plan which is mainly to be delivered by partners, has approval from Defra.

"The main issue for Ipswich with regards to air quality is pollution from traffic, and the response to this requires large scale investment from partners like Suffolk County Council and the government in order to work towards achieving the air quality objectives.

"Without that investment by those two bodies, then we are not going to be able to achieve significant improvements to air quality in Ipswich.

"Our proposed additional budget should put the council in a better position to work with those partners to achieve faster progress towards improving air quality for the residents of Ipswich, as well as benefitting the climate change agenda."

James Reeder

Conservative cabinet member for public health at Suffolk County Council, James Reeder - Credit: Suffolk County Council

James Reeder, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for public health, said: "The average background air quality across most of Suffolk is reasonably good, but air pollution is the largest environmental health risk in the UK, and we take it seriously.

“As a county council, we run many schemes which promote healthier lifestyles, which also contribute to reducing air pollution. For example, our Active Travel Fund encourages more walking and cycling.

"This is something which has been embraced over the last few months as a result of the pandemic, and we’re making it safer and easier for Suffolk residents to walk and cycle in a number of urban areas.

"We also create road improvements to manage traffic and continue to roll out Plug In Suffolk, the UK’s first fully open fast charging network for electric vehicles."

An action plan for the environment crisis is due to be published at June's Suffolk Public Sector Leaders meeting, although it is not yet clear if that will include any specific actions for Ipswich air quality.

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