Weekly contribution from Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth
Our Clean Air campaign stepped up another gear last Friday when we took it to a local school for the first time by running Summer Fair. The school made us feel very welcome and our #CleanAirEverywhere message was very well received by kids and parents alike. Even Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd, who popped into the Summer Fair, dropped by our stall to offer his support. Dirty air harms everybody's health, especially that of children. The exhaust gases and particles emitted from the engines of diesel vehicles are particularly toxic, which is why Public Health England and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence have jointly issued guidance this week which, amongst other actions to reduce air pollution, calls for No Idling Zones around schools so as to ensure that cars that are stationary outside schools during school runs turn off their engines whilst waiting. Even just one minute of an engine idling can emit polluting gases!
Our Week of Action for Clean Air might be at an end, but the campaign goes on, building on the momentum and conversations that have been generated during the past week. We will hopefully be holding a stall at the Ratton School Community Fair next weekend and a similar stall at the Lammas Festival at the end of July. But in between we will be lobbying both Eastbourne Borough Council and East Sussex County Council to take further action on air pollution. Just as clean water is essential to our health and we would not tolerate our drinking water becoming polluted with toxic chemicals, so our health depends on clean air, and we should not tolerate our air being polluted by toxic gases and particles. Just as Britain, back in the 1960s, started to get rid of the killer smogs caused by excessive coal burning through new laws and strong government action to implement them, so Britain once again needs to get rid of dirty air through a new and strong Air Quality Plan, which the UK Supreme Court has instructed the government to introduce as quickly as possible. Indeed, the government is back in court this week to face the charge that its current draft plan is still not adequate.
The UK has been in breach of EU legal limits on air pollution for far too long, and it's costing lives as well as costing all of us many lost life-years and putting ever greater strain upon an already over-stressed NHS. Indeed, in East Sussex, the new Sustainability and Transformation Plan for the NHS involves cuts of £44 million in 'traditional hospital services', compensated for by increased 'efforts to prevent illness and to promote healthy living and wellbeing'. That means investing in public health measures that will improve the health of all of us, and that must surely include measures to reduce the toxic levels of air pollution found in parts of Eastbourne. East Sussex County Council now has legal responsibilities for local public health, so we will be taking our #CleanAirEverywhere message direct to the county council, especially as the county council also has responsibilities for the roads in Eastbourne and therefore could help with many of the traffic management measures that need to be taken to reduce the amount of highly polluting diesel traffic that flows through the town.
Full details of the Friends of the Earth Clean Air campaign and how people can get involved with it can be found here.