In My View… by Cllr Dorothy Kirk, Labour Councillor for Gunnislake and Calstock
The Local Plan for Cornwall acknowledges that atmospheric pollution is a major cause of death and respiratory problems in the UK and that the main cause of poor air quality is vehicle emissions. High levels of nitrogen dioxide are known to cause childhood asthma and chronic lung disease, and are possibly linked to high incidences of diabetes. Pollution hot spots are declared under the Environment Act 1955 as Air Quality Action Areas and must be the subject of Action Plans designed to reduce exposure to pollution by whatever means necessary, including infrastructure improvements.
The Local Plan for Cornwall also states that planning decisions should not lead, individually or cumulatively, to unacceptable increases in levels of atmospheric pollution. It is my opinion that any increase in levels of pollution in existing problem areas is unacceptable. In Cornwall, there are a number of pollution hot spots, including Bodmin, Camborne-Pool-Redruth, Tideford, St Austell, Gunnislake and Truro. In many of these areas major development is planned or ongoing. Development may be large estates, or smaller groups of houses, but the cumulative effect is the same: increased traffic and increased levels of atmospheric pollution where vehicular emissions cannot escape and disperse safely into the atmosphere but continue to contaminate the air that local people breathe.
Gunnislake, in my division, sits on the A390, the only road to Tavistock and the only reroute for Plymouth from the A38 when the Tamar Bridge is closed. It sits in a deep valley and the A390 runs through the narrow heart of the village, where traffic waits at traffic lights to avoid chaos and grid lock. 7000+ vehicles and 350+ HGVs drive through village every day, their emissions unable to escape because of the nature of the topography. In spite of this, uphill of Gunnislake around 300 houses are in the course of construction on or leading to the A390, a significant increase in a parish of 2600 houses. Planning permission for development after development is granted, each one assessed separately, not cumulatively, for its contribution to levels of nitrogen dioxide. The children of my village deserve better. They should not be expected to suffer in order to provide homes for other people, often people from elsewhere. People need homes, but people who already have homes should not pay for them with their health.
The government’s assumption in favour of development is all very well if proper regard is given to the necessary infrastructures to support new development (schools, surgeries, public transport, etc) but the people already living in areas of high levels of pollution deserve better than this haphazard policy where existing problems are exacerbated by increasing levels of vehicle movements and consequent increases in levels of toxic nitrogen dioxide.
First published in The Cornish Times, 24/08/2018