LETTER: Air pollution is affecting health

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I have sent the following open letter to Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs.

Dear Nick

I would appreciate a response to this and take this opportunity to draw your attention to my recent letter to Planning Minister Nick Boles, which has appeared in the West Sussex County Times.

As you know, Localism has failed because the unelected Planning Inspectorate (PI) has imposed unrealistic house building targets on local authorities (LAs). That has left the PI to impose his/her own expectations on communities, whether considered reasonable or not by them.

Indeed, we have been warned that the PI is likely to overturn any decision to refuse the planning application for water Lane in Storrington, despite the fact that total vehicle emissions in the village need to be reduced by around 40 per cent to comply with statutory limits on air pollution. Clearly recent approvals for another 500 houses in the area, will not help.

Whilst HDC has a statutory duty to contain air pollution and even small additional increases in pollution would be counter to the objectives of the AQ Action Plan, we are advised that the PI is likely to insist that more houses should be built, making the pollution worse.

This is not of course an academic issue and you were present at the Rydon School meeting when a local GP said that air pollution has had and will have an impact, on lives.

Indeed, I understand that a Commons Environmental Committee concluded that ‘living in an air pollution hot spot could shave nine years off the lives of the most vulnerable’.

Of course the SE Plan apportioned 430 houses per annum for the Gatwick sub-region (Policy GAT3) and 190 houses pa for the rest (ie the south) of Horsham District (Policy AOSR5) and the southern part of the district already has in train over five times the SE Plan figure of 190 pa.

However, we are advised that the PI is unlikely to factor in the latter figure, when making a judgement.

It should not be difficult to see that Storrington, and its surrounding settlements, need time to absorb the impact of earlier approvals on infrastructure and on air quality, before more houses are built.

So I urge you again to stop the PI from imposing impossible targets on LAs, particularly when that is likely to lead to contravention of the LA’s statutory duties on air quality.

As suggested to Nick Boles, the PI’s unrealistic expectations could be changed by reviewing the robustness of annual monitoring assumptions, as provided for on page 285 of the old SE Plan, and by allowing LAs to duly adjust building projections for disposable incomes and economic growth.

Whatever happens, HDC will not be able to make developers build over 1,000 dwellings pa, over the next five years.

In view of the seriousness of this matter, I propose that this should be an open letter, which will appear in our local paper, along (in due course) with your response, so that residents can be reassured by the depth of your commitment to Localism. Many thanks for your time.

ROGER ARTHUR

(UKIP) Horsham district councillor for Chanctonbury ward and prospective UKIP parliamentary candidate for Horsham, North Street, Horsham