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Hot air briefly takes over as meeting seeks answers to Marlborough air pollution problems

The well-attended meeting at the Town Hall last week (February 10) to consider how to combat Marlborough's poor air quality first had to overcome some hot air.

Introducing the meeting, which was organised by Transition Marlborough and the Marlborough Area Board, Rich Pitts asked for recommendations that would be put to the next Area Board meeting (March 22.)  Area Boards have been instructed by Wiltshire Council to draw up plans to combat air pollution.

But town councillor Guy Loosmore objected to Transition Marlborough taking ownership of the air quality issue and pointed out that the town council had done all the  work that had persuaded Wiltshire Council to register an Air Quality Management Area for the town.

Then, he said, Wiltshire Council had lost interest: "Wiltshire Council had no interest in the subject...they put everything in our way.  They procrastinated on every single occasion."

Addressing Rich Pitts, Loosmore added:  "It's almost laughable to say you're working with Wiltshire Council.  Wiltshire Council is not interested, in my opinion, in doing anything about it."

Rich Pitts acknowledged the town council had worked on the issue: "All we are doing is picking up the baton - it has stagnated.  We've got this meeting to push things forward."

One of the current worries Transition Marlborough have is that the new particulate monitor Wiltshire Council have installed in the London Road does not give real time readings.  Its information id downloaded 24-hours at a time - so people, especially people with health problems, cannot be warned when pollution is getting seriously bad.

The meeting was told that the game changer has been the UK's Supreme Court has said the government must take immediate action to cut air pollution: "All of a sudden councils are required to do something."

Only one of the Area Board's four unitary councillors was present.  But town councillors and members of the audience put forward various suggestions about parking in the town and the possibility of parking outside the town with shuttle buses, about buses switching off their engines outside Lloyds Bank and about trees in the middle of the High Street (portable ones to make way for Mop Fairs.)

That morning, councillor Mervyn Hall had been speaking for the Town Council at the planning hearing for the Crown Estate development west of Salisbury Road.  Talk, he said, of this development bringing extra traffic to the town "...cut very little ice" with the planners.  He said the planning officers put Marlborough's traffic problems down to through traffic and that extra homes will not make the traffic any worse.  

It was, however, clear from the meeting that Wiltshire Council do not seem to put two-and-two together and realise that all that through traffic - including so many HGVs - adds hugely to the town's air pollution.

Toward the end of the meeting Guy Loosmore called for "...an overall review of Marlborough's transport and traffic and parking.  At the moment it's all going to collapse - and undermine the economy of the town."


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