Public Consultation: Air Quality in Saffron Walden

Uttlesford District Council is currently conducting a consultation on its draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) for Saffron Walden, and we urge residents to respond to it because their questions are heavily biased to achieve a particular result – to allow them to approve up to 1,000 more houses on the east of town. UDC is required to produce an AQAP because of illegal air quality in the town centre, and in theory the purpose of the AQAP is to show a clear route to improving air quality.

Latest: UDC has just extended this consultation until 8 April 2016 at 5 pm.

Trojan Horse

This consultation is not what it seems. It is clear from even a brief reading of it that its primary aim is to act as a justification for UDC’s continued intent for large-scale house-building on the east of Saffron Walden, rather than a plan to reduce pollution levels.  A number of the questions are biased and leading and so we are concerned about the way people respond; if people simply tick “yes” to reduce pollution (as everyone would want), it will give UDC a green light to remove parking from nearly 2km of the town’s roads and so allow nearly 1,000 new houses on the east of town.

Our primary concerns

The principal concerns we have on the draft AQAP are:

  • No traffic reduction: There are no aims or proposals to reduce traffic volumes.  Locally pollution is largely due to traffic and queues.  So why are there no proposals to limit or reduce vehicle movements? The answer of course is clear – because UDC intend to increase traffic volumes and need to try to justify how this would not make pollution even worse;
  • Large-scale development on the east: The draft AQAP itself notes that the “growth of Saffron Walden and surrounding areas will lead to increased traffic using local roads, and improvements in emission quality of new vehicles may be insufficient to mitigate against increases in the levels of harmful pollutants emitted by the overall traffic fleet.”  The obvious answer is to limit the growth on the east of Saffron Walden, but there are no questions about the effect of large-scale development in Saffron Walden and the introduction of many more cars – in fact it isn’t even mentioned;
  • Discredited One-Way System reborn: Instead the only concrete proposals identified are UDC’s discredited one-way traffic system.  This is even though Essex County Council’s air quality assessment of the one-way system said that it would actually worsen air pollution in the town centre by bringing many more vehicles, including many more HGVs, in;
  • Removal of residents’ parking: UDC also proposes removal of car-parking from nearly 2km of roads in Saffron Walden. Again as exposed earlier this year, this is part of their plan to sneak through what would effectively be an urban clearway to allow more building on the east;
  • No sustainable travel alternatives: There is no assessment, or even consideration, of how sustainable travel might be increased in Saffron Walden, or what the effects of the UDC proposals might be on sustainable travel.  The more traffic UDC encourages, the more unpleasant it is for people to walk, so the more they drive.

Consider this before responding

We would recommend these 3 things:

  1. Either that you don’t respond to the detailed on-line survey (and use the email below), or if you do that you tick the “No, I disagree” boxes in relation to paragraphs 7, 8 and 9 of Question 1, which are designed to imply public support for UDC’s development of the east of Saffron Walden;
  2. If you do respond to the on-line survey, you include in the comment box for Q2 feedback to the following effect “I disagree with the draft Air Quality Action Plan.  It has no proposals to reduce traffic volumes in Saffron Walden or to limit development in Saffron Walden because of the air quality issues.  Instead it is completely reliant on hoped for improvements in engine technology to improve air quality, and no reliance can be placed on these hopes as they are outside of UDC’s control. The draft Air Quality Action Plan needs to be completely redrawn to restrict development in Saffron Walden because of the effects it would have on pollution, and to state clearly that the levels of air pollution in Saffron Walden will be properly treated as a major consideration in any housing allocations.  I also disagree with the proposed junction changes to Saffron Walden and the road changes proposed by UDC / ECC in 2014, and the proposals to remove parking on main routes through Saffron Walden.  The draft Plan needs to set out a clear route for limiting traffic volumes in Saffron Walden and the Saffron Walden Ait Quality Management Area, and clear proposals for making the roads safer for sustainable transport users; at present it is silent on both.”
  3. If you don’t respond to the on-line survey you can e-mail UDC at consultation@uttlesford.gov.uk with the subject “Air Quality Action Plan consultation” with the suggested response above.

Where to respond

Please respond to the consultation!

The consultation papers can be found at www.uttlesford.gov.uk/aqconsultation and the last date for responding is 5.00pm on 8 April 2016. The survey link is in the middle of the page. Alternatively you can email your response to UDC using the email address above.

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Posted in Consultation, Environment, Essex County Council, News, Planning, Pollution and Air Quality, Roads and Transport, Traffic, Uttlesford District Council, Uttlesford Local Plan
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