Green MEP backs Winchester air pollution demo

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, is offering his support to demonstrators set to attend an air pollution protest march in Winchester on Sunday (11 December).

Winchester Friends of the Earth will march from the Discovery Centre to the City Museum to protest at the unwillingness of the city council to address Winchester’s serious air pollution problem.

Air pollution, mostly caused by road traffic, has been estimated by medical professionals to cause at least 40,000 early deaths per year in the UK.

It is a major contributor to asthma and a significant contributor to heart disease, cancer, and dementia. According to government figures, at least 51 people in the Winchester district die prematurely every year.

Friends of the Earth intends to illustrate the immediate consequences of the irresponsible behaviour of the city council by carrying 51 ‘tombstones’ through the town.

The council has not just failed in its duty to reduce air pollution below the legal levels for the last seven years, it has consistently followed policies that seem designed to increase traffic in Winchester. Not only does this traffic poison the air, but it impedes and deters healthier modes of mobility and access, such as walking and cycling. This too has severe health consequences. The traffic takes road and other space away from more socially and economically beneficial uses, limiting overall access and footfall to the town.

Hazel Agombar, founder of Winchester Friends of the Earth, said:

“We have been begging the council for more than eight years to take their responsibility for the health of people in Winchester seriously. What does it take to make them care that people are dying as a result of their inaction?”

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the region, said:

“Over four years ago, when I took Winchester’s formal complaint on air pollution to the European Commission, I was surprised to learn that an air quality action plan had been in place for six years, without action. I am astounded now that ten years after this plan, the Council is still taking actions that it knows will worsen the problem”