The Lower Thames Crossing… a helping hand for a serial killer?
With the prospect of the Lower Thames Crossing between Essex and Kent threatening swathes of countryside on both sides of the river, Alex Hills, chairman of Gravesham CPRE, offers his view on government roads policy while also asking if we’re all doing our bit to tackle air pollution
By continuing to build poorly planned new roads, the government is assisting a deadly force that slaughters 40,000 to 50,000 people a year. This serial killer preys on everyone, especially the young and old – and it is air pollution.
The World Health Organisation is calling for drastic action. It is estimated that up to one-third of asthma-related hospital admissions are caused by air pollution.
This year has seen many new studies on other harmful effects, including damage to unborn children, brain damage and even obesity.
The physical cost to the nation runs into many millions of pounds, aside from the mental suffering, which cannot be priced.
Yet, despite this, the government continues to plan schemes such as the Lower Thames Crossing between Thurrock in Essex and Gravesham in Kent, knowing it will not remove the problems of congestion at the Dartford Crossing.
The new crossing will increase traffic congestion on both sides of the river and on all north-south routes through Kent, resulting in many more deaths through increased air pollution.
There has been much talk about zero-emission electric cars, but there is no such thing as zero-emission.
Electric cars produce pollution through their tyres, the manufacture and disposal of components (especially the battery, which uses rare metals that are open-cast-mined), building the infrastructure required to support them and the production of the electricity to charge the batteries.
We, of course, are part of the problem and also part of the solution.
Government could do so much more – solar panels on industrial buildings, heat-pump installations in new housing estates and improved building standards including better insulation.
There urgently needs to be a sustainable green transport plan.
There are small things we can all do:
· Ensure our vehicles are well maintained
· Make one less car journey per week
· Use energy-efficient products
· Walk or cycle to school, work or shops
There is no one simple solution to our air quality crisis, but are you at least playing your own small part?