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A14 plans could breach EU air pollution limits

16 October 2013
Plans for tackling congestion on the A14 could leave the Government in breach of legal limits for air pollution, according to Campaign for Better Transport.

The transport charity has examined the Government’s £1.5bn for the A14 corridor and is warning that the scheme would not only significantly worsen air pollution across a wide area, it could actually push a number of locations above current EU legal limits.

Sian Berry, Campaign for Better Transport’s roads & sustainable transport campaigner, said: “The Government’s plans for the A14 will seriously worsen air pollution for people living along the route and risks breaching legal limits, whilst only providing a temporary improvement in congestion. It would be far more cost effective and sensible to look at ways of reducing traffic levels to help solve congestion more permanently and sustainably without breaking the law and damaging public health.”

Areas identified by the charity of specific concern include Brampton and the area between Bar Hill and Girton, which in recent years have been close to or above the legal limit of 40µg/m3 of nitrogen dioxide, a level known to cause serious health effects particularly in children. Brampton is currently surrounded by eight lanes of traffic on the A1 and A14, which could double under the Government’s proposal. The area between Bar Hill and Girton would see a total of between eight and 10 lanes of traffic rather than the current six.

Campaign for Better Transport is warning that if evidence of a potential breach of EU air pollution levels were to emerge from a full environmental impact assessment it is likely the scheme could not legally be pursued. The charity has submitted their findings as part of the public consultation process and are urging Government look again at reducing traffic levels on the current road, rather than increasing capacity.

Maria Arnold, from ClientEarth, said: “ClientEarth is concerned about the air quality impacts of the proposal, especially considering the Air Quality Management Areas along the line of the proposed works. Environmental statements should be made available at the earliest opportunity to avoid inefficiency in developing proposals which will not be viable due to their impacts on air pollution.”

Eileen Collier, from the Brampton A14 Campaign Group, said: “Brampton is the village most affected by this proposed scheme with 10 lanes of traffic just 300 metres away from family homes. The north of the village is already an Air Quality Management Area due to traffic pollution on the existing A14. Our greatest concern is for the health of our children as studies have shown that living within 500 metres of a motorway damages children’s lung development. Brampton A14 Campaign Group plans to re-submit its alternative scheme, which has already received EU support and some €20million funding.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. Read Campaign for Better Transport’s submission to the A14 consultation here.

2. The Government’s proposal to tackle congestion within the A14 corridor includes widening parts of the A14 and the A1 and building a new dual carriageway around Huntingdon. The public consultation closed on 13 October 2013 and an announcement on the preferred route is due later this year. You can view the consultation here.

3. EU legislation clearly states that areas currently within legal limits on air quality cannot be pushed over them and that it is certainly not sufficient to 'net off' gains in one place against an induced breach of the legal limit in another. The UK Supreme Court ruled in May 2013 that the Government was failing in its duty under this law to protect people from the effects of dangerously high air pollution (http://www.healthyair.org.uk/clientearth-triumph-in-the-supreme-court/).

4. The World Health Organization Air Quality Guidelines represent the most widely agreed and up-to-date assessment of health effects of air pollution, recommending targets for air quality at which the health risks are significantly reduced.

5. Research published in 2007 by Professor James Gauderman, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, followed nearly 3,700 children from age 10 measuring their lung function every year. By the time they reached age 18, those participants living within 500 metres of a motorway performed significantly worse on the lung function test than their peers. If the proposed A14 scheme went ahead, Brampton would fall well within the criteria for the Gauderman study based on the size of road, predicted volume of traffic and proximity of housing.

6. Campaign for Better Transport is the UK's leading authority on sustainable transport. We champion transport solutions that improve people's lives and reduce environmental damage. Our campaigns push innovative, practical policies at local and national levels. Campaign for Better Transport Charitable Trust is a registered charity (1101929).