Council’s Complacency Over HGV Problem

hgvA new action plan to reduce air pollution has been published by SODC. The last one was done in 2007 when the  Intelligent Traffic System was installed. This was an Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) initiative designed to smooth the traffic flow within Henley and reduce queuing times. OCC predicted this would have a positive effect on air quality; however the NO2 concentrations continued to rise.

The average annual reading of nitrogen dioxide in Henley is 62.4 micrograms per cubic metre, compared with the 40mcm objective set by Air Quality England.

The new plan proposed actions include:

  • Commission a low emission feasibility study to identify further actions to improve air quality in Henley with a particular focus on HGVs and buses. Part of this study will look at the potential for alow emission zone that would mean vehicles could only enter the area if they meet required standards.
  • Introduce a park and stride campaign to encourage people to park out of town, where it is either free or considerably cheaper than town centre car parks.
  • Launch a new campaign to encourage drivers to switch their engines off when queuing at traffic lights.

At a meeting last Friday in Watlington which was attended by David McEwan from Henley in Transition and John Howell MP.  David was very disappointed with the responses to the HGV problem in Henley and has made the following statement to the Henley Herald:

“We appreciate John Howell’s initiative in inviting representatives from across South Oxfordshire to a series of meetings to openly discuss common traffic and transport concerns. However, the central issue for Henley in Transition, WATNEXT and other communities in South Oxfordshire is dealing with the problem of HGVs transiting through our towns and villages.

Air pollution here has been over acceptable limits for many years as recognised in the Air Quality Management Areas set up by South Oxfordshire District Council in Henley, Watlington and Wallingford – but little has actually been done to alleviate the problem. HGVs contribute disproportionately to the pollution, and therefore the serious health issues we suffer. Other towns and cities in the country are making use of the technology now available to successfully tackle the HGV problem. We were therefore looking for a serious response from Oxfordshire County Council. All we have heard at this meeting is the usual reasons why nothing can be done (cost, difficulty of identifying local HGV traffic etc). This is not satisfactory.

There is currently the opportunity for residents to make their feelings known by contributing to the consultations currently taking place in the area.”

Connecting Oxfordshire www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/cms/news/2014/apr/county-council-leader-outlines-his-vision-transport-connecting-oxfordshire

Air Quality in South Oxfordshire Consultation http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/airquality (until 4 July)

Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan http://www.surveymonkey.com/S/JHHNP (until 27 June)

On behalf of Henley in Transition (email: henley.in.transition@gmail.com) and WATNEXT (info@watnext.org)