The haze of air pollution in Thurrock

Yet another survey has established that Thurrock is among one of the most polluted places in the UK to live: Thurrock air quality slammed as a health hazard but council plays down report. Thurrock has been rated by the British Heart Foundation as the seventh most polluted location in the country. Breathing in the air in Thurrock is the equivalent of smoking 138 cigarettes a year.

According to the British Heart Foundation, high levels of pollution can have a “seriously detrimental effect on heart health” and they can increase the risk of heart attacks, while making existing health issues worse. They want the next government to introduce tougher World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits because they believe the EU limits, which the UK currently follows, are insufficient. Under current EU regulations, air pollution limits use a measurement of PM2.5 for the size of particles in the air. The British Heart Foundation want to see this limit reduced to PM1.0.

If the Lower Thames Crossing is built, it will be one of the biggest road building projects in the region since the construction of the M25 and according to Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates, will lead to a significant rise in levels of air pollution. When the plans for the crossing were first mooted a few years ago, one of the main objections expressed by residents was the impact it would have on already high levels of air pollution.

You only have to look at the history of the M25 to see that a major road will attract traffic generating developments such as out of town shopping centres. The congestion problems the M25 was supposed to have reduced were worsened by the extra traffic going to and from locations such as Lakeside. If the Lower Thames Crossing goes ahead, going on past form, there’s every reason to believe that traffic generating developments will be attracted to the region. Fact – traffic expands to fill the road capacity that’s made available

Just one more lane will fix this traffic problem…NOT!

When residents in Thurrock object to large scale developments, a factor that’s always cited is the impact of extra traffic on an already overstretched road infrastructure. Thurrock is already a major centre for logistics and the ongoing expansion of the superport at London Gateway and the surrounding area is already generating a huge amount of extra traffic. The noise and air pollution from that is already having an adverse impact on the lives of residents in the eastern part of the borough.

Even though a full meeting of Thurrock Council voted to declare a climate emergency back in October, a growth obsessed minority Tory administration, aided and abetted by a number of senior officers, is trying to play down the significance of the report. Regardless of where people may stand on the issue of CO2 emissions and climate change, there’s pretty general agreement that the air quality in Thurrock is dire and needs improvement for the sake of our health.

So, we’ve reached a point where the question is this… What’s more important – our health or continuing economic growth regardless of the cost? The vibes we’re getting is that a growing number of people are willing to see clean air and their health prioritised over endless and ultimately unsustainable growth. There’s an interesting shift in values taking place. The question is, how do we get that message across to those who presume to rule over us?