Clean Air in the South West
It’s a privilege to lead a small team helping to vaccinate people in some of the most disadvantaged postcodes in the country. This week we are told there will be a dramatic increase in vaccine supply which is important to keep up momentum as people come forward for their second jabs.
The national rollout has been extraordinary and we are now beginning to see the results in case rates, hospitalisations and deaths. However, covid is with us for the long term. The burden on healthcare will continue to be substantial. We must look for easier ways of protecting people such as through single jabs or even nasal sprays, perhaps delivered annually in the post.
Parliament’s rustication and partial abeyance means I can spend time helping in the vaccination effort. But we do need to get the place fully up and running again. There can be few institutions that have not been touched by the current crisis. It will be interesting to see which changes endure. There are plenty of arcane ways of working in Parliament that I will be very happy to see the back of permanently but, equally, we can’t spend all our time on zoom calls and proxy voting.
We all contribute to traffic one way or the other and we all suffer from its consequences. In particular it’s a major contributor to poor air quality that blights even our pleasant, predominantly rural, neighbourhood.
But apparently easy solutions that involve banning traffic from one area inevitably end up landing the problem on someone else’s doorstep.
I recently wrote to DEFRA and the Department for Transport (DfT) ministers concerning Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council’s plan to implement a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) that would dump traffic from the A36 and A4 onto the A350 which runs straight up my south west Wiltshire constituency.
BANES seeks to cut the emissions that offend the residents of Bath’s elegant terraces by introducing levies to most road users. Trouble is Bath’s through traffic transiting north-south will then rumble through Westbury which is already an Air Quality Management Area.
This despite DEFRA/DfT’s joint ‘minimum requirement’ for CAZs stating unequivocally that ‘Clean Air Zone proposals will not result in the displacement of the most polluting vehicles away from town centres to surrounding areas.’
There is a solution which is to take traffic out of the centre of Westbury by building a bypass. Happily DfT is now looking at this as part of the M4-Dorset scheme which I highlighted in the BVM a couple of months ago. The Bath CAZ and its consequences has given renewed urgency to what has been an issue lodged firmly in the all-too-difficult box.