Weekly contribution from Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth
Yesterday (25 July), we met up with Eastbourne MP, Stephen Lloyd, to discuss our Clean Air campaign in detail. It turned out to be a very constructive and productive meeting indeed, for not only did Stephen express his fulsome support for our campaign but also came up with some practical suggestions for furthering the campaign through his activities within Parliament and through collaboration with MPs from all parties. The quality of the air we breathe affects everybody without exception, and as there's only one atmosphere, shared by all, this issue cuts across all political parties and backgrounds. As Stephen said: "I am a big supporter of Friends of the Earth's Clean Air campaign. Air affects everyone everywhere and all of us need to get behind this initiative because if we don't, and always leave it to 'someone else', nothing will be done. And that's simply not acceptable".
Given that the government is under acute pressure from the EU and the UK Supreme Court to take decisive action to bring UK air pollution within legal limits, the pressure within Parliament to see real action to clean up our air is growing inexorably. Indeed, the government has to bring out a new and effective Air Quality Plan by 31 July, and if the plan is still not adequate, then the government will inevitably be taken back to court yet again. Stephen fully accepted our argument that the air pollution issue will not go away, that the government will have to take decisive and urgent action at some stage, and that the public health emergency of dirty air is growing so acute that pressure from MPs and the public will become impossible to resist. If no urgent action is taken, many thousands of people will die prematurely, or suffer worsening health over the next few years. That is unnecessary, unacceptable, and totally avoidable. Stephen's willingness to do what he can on this issue is most welcome.
Stephen also expressed his support for a Clean Air Zone within Eastbourne, and we discussed various suggestions about how this would work. Stephen was especially interested in the idea of creating No Idling Zones around Eastbourne's schools in order to protect children from the pollutants coming from diesel vehicles idling when waiting, or stationary in traffic queues, outside local schools. Children are particularly vulnerable to pollutants from road traffic, and research has shown that car drivers themselves tend to get far more exposure to air pollution than walkers or cyclists because of the way that air pollution from surrounding traffic builds up within the confined spaces of a car. One minute of a diesel car's engine idling produces enough toxic gases to fill 150 balloons. Furthermore, such idling literally burns up motorists' money for no useful purpose.
Stephen promised to keep in touch with our Clean Air campaign and to liaise with us on whatever practical support he can give for the campaign. We are grateful for his time and effort on this issue and look forward to working with him on one of the great public health issues of our time. We will shortly be resuming talks with Eastbourne Borough Council on how a Clean Air Zone within Eastbourne can be created. We will also be highlighting our Clean Air campaign at our stall at the Lammas Festival taking place this coming weekend at the Western lawns in Eastbourne.