|Air Monitoring Station Boundary Road|
Yet despite WHO and Government warnings pollution, especially from motor vehicles which are one of the major causes of poor air quality, continues to increase across the globe. And Thanet is no exception. Over the past 3 years Labour, and now UKIP, controlled Thanet Council (TDC) have approved policies which are likely to significantly increase air pollution in the district and which will lead to even more pollution related deaths and disability. Here’s how.
Ramsgate Port. In 2014 Thanet Council’s Labour administration introduce the Ramsgate Maritime Plan. The plan was developed behind closed doors with no public consultation and no opportunity for Ramsgate residents to have say about what happens at their port. The main thrust of the plan was to industrialise the port by attracting freight ferries to Ramsgate and massively expanding aggregate processing operations at the port.
In 2015 UKIP took control of the Council and proceeded to implement Labour’s Ramsgate Maritime Plan with great enthusiasm. They unsuccessfully applied for £4million of Government funding to prepare the port for freight ferry operations capable of handling 1 million HGVs movements a year. They supported Brett Aggregates application to develop a large aggregate washing and crushing plant at the port, which many believe is linked to plans to dredge 2.5million cubic metres of aggregate from the nearby Goodwin Sands as part of Dover Harbour’s expansion programme. I also understand that our UKIP controlled council is exploring the possibility of developing a large waste transfer station at the port where waste shipped in from London, is sorted and then transferred to an incinerating plant to generate power.
A port hosting freight ferries, large scale aggregate processing and waste transfer/ incinerator operations will inevitably be a very polluting port. Dust from the aggregate processing, emissions from the ships, incinerator and hundreds, if not thousands, of HGV vehicles which will be travelling to and from Ramsgate every day will make the port a very dirty and noxious place. And the close proximity of the port to the densely populated town of Ramsgate means that much of this newly created air pollution will be breathed in by Ramsgate’s residents leading to many more unnecessary deaths and increased rates of pollution related disability and illness.
Ramsgate Parkway Station. Kent County Council’s plans to build a new railway station at Cliffsend will also be massively polluting. With parking for 350 vehicles many people will be encouraged to use their cars to get to the new station. These extra vehicle movements will lead to higher levels of air pollution in the Ramsgate area. Surely the answer should have been to improve public transport to Ramsgate station and develop more, and safer, cycling routes to and from the existing Ramsgate station. But our Labour, Conservative and UKIP councillors don’t seem to give a damn about the health of their constituents as they all shamefully back the plans for Parkway Station!
I’m on record as strongly opposing plans to industrialise the Port of Ramsgate. I’ve been arguing for many years for the council to hold a major public consultation about its future. I believe that there is a powerful argument to transform the port into a leisure focused, rather than an industrialised area. In my opinion this will lead to the creation of many more jobs and business opportunities than freight ferries , aggregate and waste processing ever could. But the clinching argument about the future of Ramsgate Port is, for me, that leisure use would be much less polluting and health damaging than UKIPs plans for massive industrialisation. Likewise the environmental and health damage caused by the proposed Thanet Parkway station far outweighs any other benefits the station is likely to have.
|Data Source Public Health England|
One other issue I want to mention is the question of air quality monitoring. In Ramsgate a remote air quality monitoring station is located at Boundary Road. The station is almost 10 years old, is hugely outdated, and no longer fit for purpose. This is because recent research on air pollution and health has identified particulate matter (known as PMs), as well as noxious gases such as Nitrogen Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide, as playing a major role in causing ill health, disability and death. The attention of scientists has, for a number of years, focused on some of the smallest, microscopic, airborne PMs of 2.5 microns or less in size (PM2.5), which are now generally recognised to be amongst the most dangerous components of air pollution because they can penetrate far into the lungs. The main source of PM2.5 is from road vehicles, and also some types of industrial emissions. But although the very serious danger posed by PM2.5 has been known about for some time Thanet Council has failed to update its air quality monitoring equipment at Boundary Road to have the capacity to measure PM2.5 in the air. This means that nobody knows what the levels of PM2.5 are in Ramsgate's atmosphere and nobody knows what risks of premature death, disability or illness the people of Ramsgate might face.
For a council, which is supposedly responsible for safeguarding public health, to be promoting major developments they know to be polluting, and for that council to fail to properly measure and monitor air quality in its area, is nothing less than reckless irresponsibility towards its citizens. If you vote for me in the KCC elections on 4th May I will hold Thanet and Kent County Council to account for their appalling record on managing and monitoring air pollution and public health in Ramsgate and fight for this to change.