Keith joins air pollution protest in Farnham, Surrey

9 March 2012

Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for Surrey and South East England, will today join local people to march through the streets of Farnham, Surrey, to protest about high levels of air pollution in the town. He will back their calls for Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council to take urgent action to tackle air pollution and increased traffic congestion.

Local people have organised a demonstration because they are concerned about the impact of high levels of air pollution on their health. Part of the centre of Farnham was designated an ‘Air Quality Management Area' in 2005 and this area was extended by Waverley Borough Council in 2006 because air pollution had spread. Local people say that annual mean levels of the harmful pollutant, Nitrogen Dioxide, in Farnham are in excess of the National Air Quality Objectives, set by the EU to protect our health.

Keith said: "The right to breathe clean air is fundamental. Yet thousands of lives in Surrey and across the South East are being shortened because air is heavily polluted in many places, mostly by traffic. Government data shows that air pollution contributes to over 200,000 premature deaths every year in the UK. This is an invisible public health crisis which urgently needs to be tackled."

"I'm pleased to be joining local people in Farnham today to highlight the growing levels of air pollution in the town. Waverley Borough Council acknowledges that the major cause of the high Nitrogen Dioxide levels is road traffic emissions and they must do more to tackle this growing problem. Only by making it easier for people to be less dependent on their cars will we start to improve the air around us and make Farnham a healthy and more pleasant place to live and work. A traffic plan which addresses the growing congestion in the town is urgently needed."

Keith recently published a public information leaflet, ‘Air Pollution: The Invisible Killer', to raise awareness of air pollution and its damaging health impacts. The leaflet explains how air pollution is created, how widespread the problem is, how it affects our health and how pollution can be reduced. During his visit to Farnham Keith will also be calling on local people to write to Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council to ask them to do more to tackle this invisible public health crisis.

Last week, the environment secretary Caroline Spelman gave a formal response to parliament's Enviornmental Audit Committee's report. She said that she did not dispute evidence presented in November that air pollution was the second biggest public health risk in Britain after smoking, and was linked to nearly one in five deaths a year in London. But for the first time, the government admitted that the costs of meeting EU pollution targets may not match the benefits. Keith has consistently argued that the health of pedestrians is paramount and that affordability should not be a criteria for tackling harmful air pollution.


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