DANGEROUS levels of pollution in Leamington are putting health at risk.
A new report from The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and The Lancet has highlighted Leamington as one of 44 UK towns that exceed pollution level guidelines set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It states fine particle matter known as PM2.5s should not exceed ten micrograms per cubic metre of air. In Leamington these were found to be up to 13 micrograms.
The RCP report also said pollution contributed to many chronic health problems, particularly respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, with growing evidence it was also a factor in strokes and dementia.
Environment chiefs at Warwick District Council have identified Leamington south town – particularly around Clemens Street, Bath Street and High Street – as a major pollution hotspot, chiefly due to vehicle engines.
And concerns have also been raised over pollution levels in the wider area including Warwick and Kenilworth where PM2.5 particles are not measured.
Health spokesperson Coun Andrew Thompson said the council was actively working to try and improve air quality.
“In recent years, PM2.5 concentrations have decreased, and in 2016, concentrations were only marginally above the recommended WHO limit.
“The council has had an Air Quality Action Plan in place for a number of years and is working with a number of stakeholders to deliver air quality improvements and reduce pollution in its towns.
“Some of these measures include improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure, increasing electric vehicle charging provision, junction improvements on key travel corridors and improving public information on sustainable transport options.”
Jonathan Chilvers is a Green Party councillor who represents Leamington Brunswick on Warwickshire County Council.
Coun Chilvers said: “This report tells us what many Leamingtonians already know – the air we breathe in especially when stuck in a jam is polluted and bad for our health.
“Funneling more and more traffic into the centre of Leamington is resulting in gridlock with more to come with new houses. The county must pursue 21st century solutions and invest properly in safe and enjoyable routes for walking and cycling for short journeys so we can get around when we need a car for longer routes and breathe clean air.”
The county council’s Air Quality Review Task and Finish Group – chaired by Coun Chilvers – recently recommended a number of strategies to tackle pollution levels.
They included installing static signs along busy routes with messages encouraging alternative travel; a website to build pollution awareness including a forecast; and cycling safety courses which are already being trialed.
An electric vehicle charging strategy is also being considered this week by county council chiefs as part of a wider government scheme to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.