LETTER: Air pollution - what’s the plan?

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With another spike in air pollution in the area on Friday April 10, the time is long overdue to come up with a fundamental solution to yet another symptom of ‘progress’.

With 2 AQMAs in Horsham District and unprecedented levels of development in prospect, is there a plan to mitigate the increasing pollution in areas that are already home to many vulnerable residents? At the moment there are no definitive plans that we know of. Yet there is a solution – but it has been overlooked.

Time to remind everyone the importance of trees. They form the fundamental framework and canopy under which ecosystems of up to 300 species survive.

Besides their pivotal role in the character of our landscapes, forests of trees diffuse strong winds, protect from flooding, shelter from frost, provide shade in summer, mitigate air pollution, prevent soil erosion and are, most importantly the lungs of the planet and yet they are considered by many as an inconvenience.

We need to ensure that everyone has a role in protecting and increasing native tree cover right through from government, through our local authorities and their policies through to our local communities. A start would be that any new development approved has to protect current woodland and include new substantive areas for woodland/biodiversity and that these are material considerations – not an afterthought.

With careful planning and the environment in the forefront, this can be achieved. Current woodland should not be degraded by building up to its borders, over coppicing or overuse and considered merely a ‘sad loss’ – when approving housing projects.

Swathes of trees in the area have been lost to developments recently (e.g. Broadbridge Heath, Billingshurst) – some would have taken over 100 years to establish and were cut down in hours.

Sure we need houses, but there is no point in a home without a healthy environment (also there is no need to degrade it – there is still room for both).

There have been many opportunities to set aside areas in new developments to create areas of biodiversity, not least in our worst polluted villages, however, economics win in the short term, and long term health is disregarded over profit. Regrettably, the odd individual tree planted in front of a huge development is not mitigation – trees are only really effective when planted together to form a habitat. This is why in strong winds, so many trees come down – their effectiveness truly compromised by being solitary.

At a community level we can also help our environment by replacing impenetrable fencing with native hedgerows and this would have a effect of diffusing harsh weather and pollutants, reducing flooding, giving our wildlife a safe place to feed and rest and lastly making our gardens more attractive (Hedgelink.org.uk, 2015).

Everyone remembers cutting down a tree – but who remembers planting one in its place? This is the time to take the environment seriously, both as individuals and collectively. It can be done.


For and on behalf of the Campaign to protect Rural England (CPRE) Sussex - Horsham and Crawley, Guyhurst Spinney, Thakeham