By Mel Dawkins / Environment / / 0 Comments

After reading an article last week about high levels of pollution in St Stephen’s, I felt compelled to investigate the matter further for the ward in which I’m standing. It’s an extremely worrying issue and something has to be done about it and now. So, I went to meet up with Stephen Peckham, the University of Kent’s Professor of health policy, to find out more.

According to Professor Peckham, the level of pollution in St Stephen’s has now reached a critical point, and more needs to be done to make residents aware and informed. The Conservative-led council are more concerned about throwing good money into vanity schemes like the Whitefriars centre, and West Station car park, than improving the quality of air that its residents breathe.

Main concerns are:

  • currently, the council ignores breaches of low-level ozone levels.
  • the council rely on very poor monitoring of nitrogen dioxide, ie. test tube testing.
  • the dangerous balance of solid and liquid particles, known as Particulate 2.5, is not being measured anywhere in the city.

The Council are keeping city residents in ignorance of the appalling quality of air in Canterbury. Their website describes the air quality is ‘fine,’ but as Professor Peckham indicates, this is blatantly not true. The website data relies on an average of air quality results taken from across the whole of Kent, and not a detailed report of specific areas.  The city of Canterbury actually breached low ozone limits 36 times last year, well above the safe threshold of 10 a year. Yet we have not been informed of this. If this wasn’t bad enough, recent testing of nitrogen dioxide levels have proven to be well over their limits in areas such as Wincheap, St Peter’s Place, Sturry Road, and St Stephen’s.

Our children are being exposed to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide during busy school periods. Professor Peckham’s own research highlights the increased levels of nitrogen dioxide at those times. Residents are daily breathing in astonishingly high levels of pollution and ten times the accepted level of particulate 2.5, known to damage the lungs, impair cognitive function and worsen other conditions such as asthma.

There’s one thing we can do in St Stephen’s to make the situation a little better. Switch off our engines at the level crossings. Did you know it is actually illegal to leave the engine on whilst stationary, with exceptions when at traffic lights, or if the vehicle has defects. So why is more not being doing done to ask drivers to turn their engines off at the railway crossing?  All studies highlight these as air pollution hotspots and one of these is the route for a lot of children walking to and from the St Stephen’s primary school. The existing small signs at the road side are easily overlooked.

So, just turning your engine off when stationary could help considerably with the peaks in air pollution during busy periods. The recommendation is to turn off your ignition if you’ve waiting more than 10 seconds. Contrary to popular belief, restarting your car does not burn more fuel, than if you leave it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds takes more gas than restarting the engine. Vehicle idling is also an offense against Road Traffic Regulations. The law states that is an offence to idle your engine unnecessarily when stationary, and if you fail to turn your engine off after being spoken to, you may be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £20. At the moment, nobody is enforcing this.

With the council in denial, over all responsibility for ensuring cleaner air is being passed around. For example, air quality monitor officers working in Canterbury will inform government of their findings and government response puts the onus back upon the local council. Canterbury is not on the list for a low emission zone (see UK Clean Air Zones) so changes will have to be done at a local level, within the city council. As a city councillor,  I will start a campaign in collaboration with St Stephens Primary school to raise awareness and make sure all  car drivers turn engines off at the  level crossings.

A Labour council will:

  • Lead consultation on 20 mph zones near schools and in densely-populated areas, and work with headteachers, parents and local residents to encourage car-free alternatives to the school run.
  • Establish a climate change board aiming for the district to become carbon neutral by 2030, starting by ensuring CCC’s vehicle fleet evolves quickly to use the lowest emission vehicles possible.
  • Rigorously enforce the laws around litter and dog fouling and provide on-street recycling bins.
  • Start real-time air quality monitoring, including particulates, and regularly inform the public of progress towards cleaner air.
  • Consult with communities on creating free-flowing urban traffic, congestion zones and car free areas to reduce pollution.

Mel Dawkins, council candidate for St. Stephen’s.

By Val Kenny / JobsLatest News / / 0 Comments

The temporary one way system in Whitstable has caused real difficulty for local shops these past three weeks. Isn’t it time the council considered how we could use our car parks to support local business better?

At one point last week, drivers venturing into Whitstable would have found themselves turned away from Middle Wall Car Park, Cromwell Road, Cornwallis Circle and struggling to park centrally as the capacity of Gladstone Road car park has been halved. The temporary one way system caused by the closure of Sea Street and the development of the Oval may be coping, but local trade on our high street has drop substantially and confused many residents who rely on local buses to venture into town during the week.

Last week myself and fellow candidate Chris Cornell visited local shop keepers to talk to them about the disruption. One shop keeper was clear that something needs to be done. “For years I’ve been saying to the council that the strength of this high street depends largely on the Gorrell Tank Car Park and for the third year in a row it is about to be temporarily closed” said one local shopkeeper. “The council really appreciate that their actions affect our takings”.

As the council roll out more infuriating machines to car parks down the high street, Labour would like to see local residents given half an hour’s free parking to encourage them to use local shops. Freeing up the high street would make buses run easier, prevent queueing and make it far safer where roads are narrow. It would stop our loading bays being filled with people popping in for a print of milk.

Canterbury City Council already use free parking as a means to attract shoppers to Herne Bay, so why not Whitstable?

As the council continues to raise the price of parking in our car parks and outside your house, we think that the money their new automatic plate recognition (ANPR) machines swallow because the machines don’t give change, could be better spent. A Labour council would run a honest, independent consultation on parking in town and support local businesses by using the council car parks differently.

By Chris Cornell / Justice / / 0 Comments

Social media has been raging recently with crime stories in Whitstable. Local Conservative councillors have responded by unfairly criticising serving officers and describing them as no better than cardboard policemen.

Instead of complaining, Labour candidate for Gorrell, Chris Cornell, has written to the Chief Constable Alan Pughsley asking him to assign a new Town Constable to Whitstable as part of the roll out of 90 new front line officers paid for by the recent increase in our council tax. Read his letter below.

Dear Chief Inspector

I, like many residents of Whitstable, welcomed the recent decision by the Police & Crime Panel on the 7th February to provide additional funding to local policing decisions in the context of substantial under investment in the last few years. Whitstable lost its High Street Police Station in September 2012 and, since this time, fear of crime or anti-social behaviour has notably increased, particularly online.

In the twelve months leading up to the closure of our police station, 1,947 crimes were committed in our area. Last year over the same period we recorded 2,910. That’s a staggering 49% increase and substantially above the rate of increase across the county during this period (11%).

Whilst we understand that crime across the whole county is increasing and resources remain tight, we believe a town of over 30,000 residents deserves a dedicated police resource, particularly when it has a higher per capita crime rate than nearby Herne Bay whose police station responds to 999 calls in our area.

As such I’m writing to formally request you consider our town for a new town centre Constable to increase the police presence and improve co-ordination of services across our town. With additional funding identified for 90 extra community police officers, a new town centre Constable for Whitstable is affordable and would go a long way to providing a ‘visible reassurance’ to visitors and residents of our town.

It is clear from Met Commissioner Dick’s recent comments that police numbers have a direct impact on the amount of crime, particularly violent crime. We believe a new town centre Constable could compliment the excellent work of local PCSOs and prove an additional resource to tackle shoplifting from repeat offenders, the rise in threatening or intimidating behaviour, particularly during school holidays, as well as anti-social behaviour on our beach at night. The number of licensed premises in our town is increasing whilst volunteer ‘‘street pastors’ are the only roaming presence in our town on busy nights out.

I would appreciate a response to my letter.

Yours truly,

Chris Cornell