Suffolk village blighted by smog

DEEP in the heart of the countryside lies Sibton. It is a perfect example of picture postcard Suffolk, yet the village hides a sinister secret - it is, in fact, one of the country's top smog hotspots.

DEEP in the heart of the countryside lies Sibton.

It is a perfect example of picture postcard Suffolk, yet the village hides a sinister secret - it is, in fact, one of the country's top smog hotspots.

The Evening Star's Suffolk Coastal reporter SARAH GILLETT and photographer LUCY TAYLOR went in search of the elusive cloud.

ARRIVING in Sibton on a sunny afternoon it is hard to imagine anywhere cleaner, greener or quieter.

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Birds chirping in the trees and the faint rumble of a combine in a far-off field.

Every ten minutes or so the peace broken by a lone car meandering along the small lane that appeared to be the village's main road.

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The only people in sight were a pair of holidaymakers soaking up the rays outside their caravan.

Think of smog and you think of noisy, dirty polluted cities full of fumes from factories and jammed with traffic.

The name itself originates from a cloying mixture of smoke and fog hanging over cities.

All Sibton managed is a slight heat haze as the sun sank over the freshly-harvested corn fields.

Yet according to the Friends of the Earth data smog levels in the village broke government health limits every day last week – putting it on a par with places like London, Southend, Thurrock, Wigan and Northampton.

Residents of the village were equally amazed by the findings.

Sally Lear, 51, a Sibton parish councillor, said: "It's news to me. I haven't seen any traces of smog, a slight sea-scud perhaps, but that's about it.

"Maybe it came from our barbecue on Saturday night!

"It really is a ridiculous idea. The monitor must be extremely sensitive."

Allan Dale, 56, owner of Sibton Country Suppliers, said: "It's probably because this is one of only 25 places with a measuring device! I certainly haven't seen any smog.

"You often see Sibton mentioned on the weather because it's got this device. If they had one in Ipswich then they'd be saying there was smog there."

Smog was measured at 80 pollution monitoring sites. The list below shows the top 25 offenders.

Otherwise known as ozone pollution, smog is formed by the interaction of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons in sunlight. This means levels are highest in summer, when there is more sunshine.

The main source of both gases is traffic fumes.

Friends of the Earth experts say ozone levels tend to be higher in rural areas than in towns and cities for two reasons.

Firstly, the processes which produce ozone gases can take several hours, meaning that it is often formed downwind of the original sources.

Secondly, ozone is destroyed by other pollutants in vehicle exhausts. This tends to reduce the levels in urban areas. In rural areas, with lower levels of vehicle exhaust pollution, this 'mopping up' process is slower.

Friends of the Earth's pollution campaigner Tony Bosworth said: "Our record-breaking sunshine has brought a lot of smog, breaching health standards nationwide. And because of the way ozone pollution travels, people who try to escape the heat of our cities for a breath of fresh air will have found they got just the opposite.

"The government must do more to tackle the source of the pollution by cutting the amount of traffic on our roads."

Among the places included in the list:

Blackpool, Bournemouth, Leamington Spa, London Brent, London Haringey,

London Hillingdon, London Teddington, Northampton, Portsmouth, Southend on Sea, St Osyth, Thurrock, Wicken Fen (Cambs)

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