Fringe Box



The Dragon Says: Too Many People, Too Many Cars – No Wonder We Have the Worst Pollution

Published on: 25 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 27 Jul, 2021

News that we have the most polluted stretch of road in the country will come as no surprise to many residents tired of dealing with the chronic traffic congestion.

One does not need to be a scientist to imagine the damage being done to our air and our health by the exhaust fumes of thousands of vehicles often slowed down to a crawl by the choking down of three lanes into two as the A3 passes under the cathedral.

Nor does one need to be a genius to see the connection between increased population and more houses, more cars and even more pollution despite the  Climate Emergency declared by our borough and county councils.

The solution in the Local Plan was to improve the infrastructure. Improvements were promised if the houses were to be built. But our road capacity cannot be easily increased. In many areas, road width is constrained by buildings on either side of the road, many built in a time before motor vehicles.

And our road capacity is but one of the constraints making population increase in our borough difficult. There are also finite levels of water supply, sewage treatment and power supply.

When the public was consulted on the Local Plan all these issues were raised and largely ignored. At the 2019 borough council election, the Conservatives behind the Plan suffered an unprecedented defeat. Their parting gift had been to tie the hands of future administrations with a Local Plan that most within the borough saw as a failure, a failure not only of good, sustainable planning but, in the way it was adopted, of democracy.

It seems that those in central government are so besotted with their “build, build, build” policy, no doubt much-loved by their donor-developer friends, that they will brook no objection, even as it hurts their own loyal councillor supporters who find their popularity evaporating as more planning permissions are approved by a council that must feel more and more powerless.

News of the excessive pollution levels will probably be filed next to that of the exaggerated population predictions on which our Local Plan was based.

There are Conservatives that understand. They appreciate that not all development might be good. Some know they are committing electoral suicide in many parts of the South East with their Westminster-based obsession.

The houses being built here are, more often than not, for those moving into our borough who can afford the larger homes in greenfield, higher-profit developments, that builders prefer. The idea we are building for our children is laughable.

Of course, we do need the right sort of development. Construction of council homes for those on our housing waiting lists should be the priority. And the development of our economy in a way that the profit is more equably shared, not just left to “trickle-down” to those with a paltry share of the borough’s affluence. A thirsty man needs more than a drip.

Instead, we will continue to see the character of parts of the borough and its villages permanently damaged, see millions of more pounds going into the coffers of development companies and see little done to get to grips with the real problems underlying this latest pollution report.

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Responses to The Dragon Says: Too Many People, Too Many Cars – No Wonder We Have the Worst Pollution

  1. David Roberts Reply

    July 25, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    The problem is not so much an “infrastructure deficit”, as council leader Joss Bigmore says, but a development surfeit.

    An A3 tunnel would only make things worse. As a deceitful Tory fantasy, it outstrips even their ridiculous proposal to extend the Surrey Hills AONB to Send – on a par with Boris Island and the Garden Bridge.

  2. Andrew Calladine Reply

    July 29, 2021 at 8:18 am

    Not one mention in The Dragon comment about actually getting people out of their cars and using viable alternatives.

    Increasing road compacity never has and never will solve this problem, induced demand has repeatedly shown that extra capacity for vehicles is quickly used up. It’s the perfect storm; expensive and poor public transport coupled with no desire to enable more people to walk and cycle short journeys.

    Car ownership and dependency is pandered to by both SCC and GBC. Guildford is a nice place to live but it could be made even better by some politicians with vision and courage who want to make a step-change to benefit us now and for future generations to come.

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