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It’s time to take action on air pollution

Tinsley and Brinsworth residents must be nervous about the health impacts of big developments close to their doorsteps. The M1 has been widened to 4 lanes. Ikea and the Olympic Legacy Park are on the way.  A service station for M1 junction 33 has just been proposed, only 2 weeks before the Smithy Wood decision was due at junction 35.  The Meadowhall extension decision, still in the works, is delayed while congestion issues around Junction 34 receive ”full and proper assessment”.

After wading through the Meadowhall application, it appears that it will increase car journeys by about 8%. 4 out of 5 people will continue to arrive by car and nearly two thirds of those journeys will be via the M1. Meadowhall have already maximised the use of cleaner transport options for customers and staff.  The tram train to Rotherham will help a little bit from around 2019 when cleaner Northern and Trans Pennine Express trains are also due.

These are significant changes with serious implications for air pollution in this part of Sheffield. They merit a genuine public discussion. The State of Sheffield report was clear: “Air quality in Sheffield has not improved and remains a significant issue that impacts on citizens’ health and wellbeing.” But there is conspicuous silence, despite the known impacts on communities living near the M1.

We know 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield can be attributed to poor air quality. Tinsley is in the Darnall council ward which has very high levels of asthma, respiratory and circulatory disorders and cancer linked to high levels of poverty. It has the highest A&E attendance rate for young people under 20.  A Public Health Strategy approved at Cabinet on March 15th states: “We will adopt a principle of health in all policies & systematically consider health and wellbeing outcomes, and inequalities across all of the decisions.”

So are we now going to insist that major developments are air pollution neutral? Or will we keep turning a blind eye to the lifelong health impacts? It’s time to stop merely talking about tackling air pollution, and take action.

Simon Geller
Sheffield Green Party

Topics: air pollution, City Wide, Featured