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Letter: We Can’t Live Safely With This Level of Car Dependency

Published on: 30 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 30 Jul, 2021

From: Jeremy Varns

In response to: A3 Guildford Pollution Worst in England, GBC Leader Blames ‘Infrastructure Deficit’

I have contacted Guildford Borough Council on numerous occasions regarding poor air quality, most recently in November of last year. With rented monitors, I conducted checks every three weeks over an 18-month period recording levels of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter exceeding the legal limit in the areas mentioned in the Highways England report, yet this was dismissed as inaccurate.

I was told that pollution was within acceptable levels as defined by the law. Have I been misled?

I am not a driver, I live close to town to do the responsible thing, namely, walk or use public transport yet I am expected to continue breathing in this filthy air day after day after day? Why are there no safe routes for pedestrians from the town centre and train station to the suburbs? Walnut Tree Close, for example, has traffic levels eight times the national average for an unclassified road of its type and location. Illegal air quality has been recorded along the alternative routes into town, including Woodridge Road and Stoke Road.

I want to breathe clean air and I have a legal right to do so. In 2013 GBC said it wasn’t “in their remit” to advise me how to safely get to and from the town centre. Their position is looking increasingly untenable.

Furthermore, the council and police are refusing to deal with cars mounting the raised kerb and parking on the pavement. This creates an expectation that private property can be housed for free on public land, a space designated for vulnerable road users. The pavement is NOT a parking space!

In the past 18 months, I have taken images of over 4,000 vehicles parked on the pavement, many have been sent to the authorities yet no action has been taken.

The council are now ignoring me, as are Surrey Police. I intend to take this matter through the courts if that’s what is required to protect my rights and those of others who care about the environment and take responsibility for their own health.

It’s impossible to live sustainably and safely in Guildford with this level of car dependency.

Deputy leader of the Guildford Borough Council and lead councillor for Climate Change, Cllr Jan Harwood (Lib Dem, Merrow) responded:

“We understand residents’ concerns about air quality in our town and reducing air pollution is one of our highest priorities across the borough. We are monitoring air quality at 33 locations across the borough, including main roads leading into the town centre, to measure levels of nitrogen dioxide.

We have also been working with the University of Surrey’s iSCAPE (Improving the Smart Control of Air Pollution in Europe), GCARE (Global Centre for Clean Air Research) and Living Lab projects to analyse air quality around the borough and use their world-class expertise to have a major impact here in Guildford.

“Poor air quality can have a major impact on our health and we will continue to work with Highways England and Surrey County Council to make this situation is better for all of our residents. We must do all we can on a local level to protect our residents and visitors from poor air quality and work together to move to sustainable travel options including cleaner, low and zero-emission vehicles.

“We are now looking to expand the amount of electric vehicle charging points in our car parks and on-street in our town centre. Using other modes of transport will also help to reduce air pollution and new railway stations at Guildford West, in Park Barn, and Guildford East, in Merrow, are being planned to give people an alternative way of travelling.

“It is important that everyone behaves in a more environmentally sustainable way and makes positive changes to reduce our carbon footprint. We really appreciate the efforts our residents are making.

“On Sunday, September 26 we are putting pedestrians first in the town centre with our Car Free Day. It’s an opportunity for local people to take positive action against climate change, enjoy our town centre and explore more sustainable travel options.

“To help people reduce the number of car journeys they make, we offer around 8,000 people working in the borough, who have joined our easitGuildford network, discounts on rail and bus travel, plus reduced bike and car hire for participating businesses.

“We know that blocked footpaths are frustrating for residents but due to current legislation, we do not have the authority to prevent cars and heavy-duty vehicles parking on pavements or verges.

“Changing people’s behaviours is a key part of this and we will continue to engage with businesses and communities – with a particular focus on younger people.”

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test 3 Responses to Letter: We Can’t Live Safely With This Level of Car Dependency

  1. Valerie Thompson Reply

    July 30, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    The pollution on the A3 is as a result of traffic bypassing Guildford town centre on constricted roads, too narrow for a major highway.

    The Friary Centre, the offices opposite the old Town Bridge, the Debenhams store, shortly to be replaced on the same footprint, and the introduction of bus lanes, all have caused or will cause severe narrowing of the roads passing through the town from Woodbridge Road, soon also to have bus lanes, thereby slowing the vehicles to a crawl, creating yet more exhaust fumes.

    Traffic has to travel at a steady pace to avoid the problems.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    July 31, 2021 at 1:17 pm

    The council’s response to this complaint is straight out of the Ministry of Propaganda manual.

    The value of Cllr Harwood’s reply is inversely proportional to its length.

    The council does not understand residents’ concerns about air quality. If it did it would take the complaint seriously and it would accept the complainant’s evidence.

    The one thing the council can and should do is to revise the Local Plan. Over half the houses in the Local Plan are 100% dependent on car access from the A3. Cllr Harwood ignores this basic fact. Is he willing to do anything about it? As we know, his party’s former Leader voted for it and the likelihood of Cllr Harwood working to change it appears to be zero.

  3. Donna Collinson Reply

    August 4, 2021 at 7:29 am

    This website allows you to put in any postcode and find the air quality rating by three separate measures against the WHO safe air quality levels.

    https://www.addresspollution.org/

    Stoke Road has NO2 levels higher than eg Autoglass trading Estate rear Dennis roundabout featured in the report stating A3/Guildford worst polluted in England outside London.

    Stoke Road also breaks the WHO limit of 10 mcg/m3 for PM2.5 at 11.06 mcg/m3

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