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Parish Council Lobbies For Action on Air Pollution

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Nitrogen Dioxide – A Major Health Risk

A number of studies have shown that diesel engines produce high levels of nitrogen oxides and dioxides, together called NOx. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is particularly harmful – studies have shown it can cause or exacerbate a number of health conditions, such as inflammation of the lungs, which can trigger asthma and bronchitis, and increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. Recently, the number of premature deaths in the UK attributed specifically to NO2 stood at 23,500; the number of people generally affected by health problems will, of course, be much greater.

Although the UK, along with other European countries, was required to reduce NO2 levels to below a maximum annual mean concentration of 40 μgm-3, it has recently been given a “final warning” by the European Commission over its failure to address the problem of harmful levels of toxic air.

The Problem in Cowfold

Cowfold is suffering from increasingly high levels of Nitrogen Dioxide gases emitted from vehicles travelling through the village. The measurement of NOx levels at various roadside locations and subsequent results from a continuous monitoring station situated in the middle of the village (next to the village hall) show pollution levels increasing each year and in excess of both the EU and WHO maximum levels of 40 μgm-3, concentrations considered harmful to health.

The Location of Diffusion Tube Monitoring Sites in Cowfold

Reference/Location Data Capture 2009 % Annual Mean Concentration 2009 (µg/m3) Adjusted by Local Bias
Cowfold 1N – Olde House, The Street 92 49.4
Cowfold 2N – Olde House, The Street 100 49.1
Cowfold 3N – Station Road Margarets Coattages A272 92 42.5

Table: Cowfold Diffusion Tube Results 2009

The latest count shows a level of 50 μgm-3, which represents a significant increase on previous years’ figures.

The centre of Cowfold was declared an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) by Horsham District Council on 1 December 2011. This led to the preparation of a Cowfold Air Quality Action Plan by Horsham District Council in conjunction with West Sussex County Council and the setting up of a Steering Group involving all stakeholders including a representative of the Parish Council, currently Stephen Clark.

We Need Urgent Action

Although the Action Plan includes proposals for a range of solutions, no action has yet been taken. The Parish Council is becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress in the face of the mounting health risks to residents, from young children walking to school every day to the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to these higher levels of Nitrogen Dioxide.

As is apparent from the attached charts, HGVs make up only 4% of traffic through the village but they account for 37% of NOx emissions.

Estimated Annual Average Daily Traffic Flow (left) and Road Traffic NOx Emissions (right) by Vehicle Class, The Street Cowfold 2011
Vehicle categories:
Cars and LDV includes: cars taxis, light goods vehicles and vans
HDV includes: buses, coaches, minibuses and HGVs
TWMV: Two Wheels Motor Vehicles

In view of these results, the Parish Council has now written to our local MPs, Nick Herbert, and Sir Nicholas Soames, asking for their support in lobbying for the installation of signs on the A23 and the A24 (both northbound and southbound) to help keep HGVs on these major routes and deter them from taking detours/short cuts through Cowfold on the A272.