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Pollution Professor Advises Guildford Labour on the Importance of Clean Air

Published on: 5 Feb, 2019
Updated on: 6 Feb, 2019

Former Labour Parliamentary Candidate Howard Smith discusses problems of air pollution with Prof Kumar

Air pollution in Guildford is a major concern for many residents also concerned in the international bid to help combat the growing problem of dangers connected with climate change.

So Guildford Labour Party invited the eminent Professor Prashant Kumar, founding director of Surrey University’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) to talk to members about our town’s air problem.

He gave a succinct presentation covering the different types of particles that cause major pollution, and the work his team has done so far on using “green barriers”, trees, hedges, green walls, to shield pedestrians and cyclists from the effects of vehicle emissions.

The professor handled a lively question and answer session covering a variety of issues, and confirmed that cars idling in traffic jams provide the worst possible scenario for serious pollution.

That made many present wonder why cars that automatically cut our when in neutral are not more common. Party members also asked why the new cycle-way alongside Stoke Park did not have a hedge to shield riders and runners from the effects of car pollution.

The final part of the session involved members discussing issues, conducting an exercise on suitable barrier methods and consulting other research materials.

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Guildford Labour chair Richard Mithen said: “Air pollution is inevitably a serious issue in a congested town such as Guildford, but Professor Kumar’s team have shown just how serious it is, and how effectively pollution can be mitigated by intelligent use of green barriers.

“Our members hope to have the opportunity to work with GCARE and improve the air quality in Guildford town centre.”

He thanked Professor Kumar for providing the audience with the valuable evidence from the university team’s extensive research.

We understand our residents are concerned about pollution and recognise how many are already taking individual steps to reduce their impact on the environment. As a Council, we are fully committed to play our part alongside the government and business community.

Cllr Graham Ellwood

Cllr Graham Ellwood (Con, Merrow), lead councillor for licensing, environmental health & community safety responded to news of the Labour meeting, saying: “Improving air quality in the borough for residents and those working and visiting Guildford is a priority for the council.  Our Air Quality Strategy for Guildford (2017) shows our commitment not only incorporating our statutory duties which involve monitoring air quality within the borough and taking action where needed but taking a proactive approach more generally to improving air quality.

“The strategy details measures such as promoting alternative travel to work for businesses throughout the borough including the council itself. We have also reviewed the vehicles the council purchases and now have a total of nine electric vehicles in our fleet.

“We have initiated campaigns to promote anti-idling – to encourage people to not keep engines running when parked – across the borough. We recently started a project with a number of schools to raise awareness on the accumulative damage to air quality from idling vehicles outside schools.

“Other ways we are improving air quality for communities across our borough include developing the action plan for Compton’s Air Quality Management Area, our ongoing work with the University of Surrey’s Global Centre for Clean Air Research (GCARE) and the large network of local monitoring points.

Expanding on the measures being taken Cllr Ellwood continued: “We also tackle the issue collaboratively. The Guildford Joint Committee now has responsibility for air quality decision-making and they have formed a working group to identify air quality priorities. We are part of the Blackwater Valley partnership which comprises of Guildford, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor borough councils along with Surrey and Hampshire county councils.

“Together we produced the initial feasibility study that led to the proposals for a reduced speed limit of 50mph on one section of the A331 and other measures such as extra signage. Our continued focus on better air quality is vital to ensuring Guildford continues to thrive and remains a great place to live and work.”

Labour’s session with Professor Kumar was endorsed by both the Guildford Greenbelt Group and the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Susan Parker

Borough Cllr Susan Parker (Send), the GGG leader, said: “We have campaigned against this pollution for years and we’re delighted it is now gathering traction. More commuting by car has to be a bad thing for our borough’s air quality and just as bad for our carbon footprint. We’d encourage urban rather than rural development or sprawl, to protect us all from overuse of cars.

“This should be a national policy, but we can and should act locally. We’d make the impact on air quality a planning consideration for all future developments.

“We’d also have incentives for growing hedges, since these are brilliant at filtering air and are strongly recommended by Professor Kumar. We’d discourage felling of all mature trees since these act as a vital filter for our air quality as a whole.

“As a specific measure to filter road pollution and to protect the most vulnerable group of young children, we’ve proposed narrow one-metre high hedges or ivy-covered frames edging roads near schools, to be installed by GBC on a test basis.”

Cllr Caroline Reeves

Caroline Reeves, the council Liberal Democrat leader, said: “We are delighted that Labour has recognised the problem of air pollution. Professor Kumar presented his findings to GBC’s Overview & Scrutiny committee last year. So Guildford Lib Dems have used information from that meeting, combined with the findings of the Modal Shift approach to implement ideas for Neighbourhood Zones where engine-idling is discouraged and a 20mph limit is applied in residential urban areas and village centres, not only improving air quality but also safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

“The government indicated that local authorities must act now on air pollution, but given the dire financial situation at Surrey County Council, this makes the task of GBC even more important.

“Guildford Lib Dems are calling for traffic flow through the one-way system to be improved, as part of a town centre masterplan. Any new developments within the borough must take into account air quality management. This task is challenging in any urban area, but together we can manage it.”

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Responses to Pollution Professor Advises Guildford Labour on the Importance of Clean Air

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 5, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    If readers want to see how noise and particulates vary over the past three months they go to Here they can see the actual figures from one of the pieces of kit used in the experiment, run over the past three months by the Professor’s team. The location was 75 feet from the A3 adjacent the Clay Lane bridge.

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    February 5, 2019 at 10:03 pm

    If the GBC leadership has suddenly realized that “air quality is a big issue” then why are the persisting in their discredited strategy of building so many homes on the green belt, which will put 50,000 new cars on our blighted roads.

  3. Puran Bhardwaj Reply

    February 11, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    I think, authorities need to look into the source of this big problem of local pollution. Most of the cars should be prevented from entering our towns and suitable, local green transport should be provided.

    All day, from every surrounding village there are many vehicles entering the town. Why can’t they be reduced by the introduction of more buses to help people to commute? Why will people not take buses? That has to be addressed.

    Deter all the big stores, which suck too many people in. Our corporate companies need to provide coaches for their shoppers, instead of parking. Or apply an entry tax for cars.

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