Storrington’s pollution is harmful to our health – everyone can help by switching engines off when stationary. #switchoffstorrington
It may be no secret that Storrington has previously been exposed as having the worst air quality and highest levels of pollution in the South East, with data suggesting that the quality of air has previously plummeted to rates even worse than London.
The high levels of traffic congestion through Storrington High Street and surrounding areas contribute to the remarkable levels of harmful emissions released into the air from car engines. Often at a gridlock, peak time traffic queues through our narrow high street contribute a worrying level of harmful pollutants into the air on a daily basis. Almost a decade on from the first Air Quality Action Plan implemented by Horsham District Council (HDC) to bring long-term benefits to people in the village, it seems that it is now time for the community to acknowledge the pollution crisis to help the council tackle the issue.
The graph below shows a comparison in levels of nitrogen oxides as nitrogen dioxide (NOx) across the last decade. NOx is released into the atmosphere when fuels, such as petrol, are burned. High levels of such emissions can inflame the airways in our lungs causing serious health problems. In Britain alone, known NO2 emissions have been estimated to kill 23,500 people every year, according to aerosol science professor Ian Colbeck of the University of Essex.
The concentration of air pollutant is measured in micrograms per cubic meter of air (µgm-3). The European Commission environmental departme
nt consider exposure to any level of air pollutant over 200 µgm-3 for over an hour to be harmful to our health. Levels of air pollutant over 10 years recorded in Storrington Roadside are presented in the below graph, depicting a scary reality regarding the pollutants in the atmosphere in Storrington.
What can pollution do to our health?
Air pollution can cause serious health problems. Around 1 in 10 cases of lung cancer in the UK are caused by air pollution and, according to the World Health Organisation, high levels of pollutants in European cities can lower life expectancy by anywhere between 2 to 24 months. Air pollution can have especially negative effects on vulnerable population groups like the elderly and children. The British Lung Foundation says that young children can develop asthma from breathing in polluted air and can even be at a higher risk of getting lung cancer when they get older. Older citizens are already predisposed to respiratory conditions and breathing in excessive NO2 may cause further health problems for them.
2018’s Air Quality Management Annual Status Report from Horsham District Council revealed that Storrington’s air quality still needs to be improved. Since 2016, a slight decrease in NOx levels was observed, but the levels still exceeded objectives in Manleys Hill and School Hill. West Street and High Street were both within 10% of the
objective. The highest hourly average concentration levels of NO2 (above 40μg/m3) were recorded in peak traffic times on Monday and Tuesday mornings when people may be driving to work or school. All the traffic that congests Storrington’s roads releases harmful pollutants throughout our town.
What can be done?
With all these facts considered, despite HDC’s efforts, it could be said that we need to do something to combat air pollution as a community.
HDC have implemented Action Plans over the years to tackle the crisis, including:
- A Traffic Regulation Order to prohibit waiting, loading and unloading on North Street (at the Junction with the High Street) is being implemented imminently and the Parish Council will be urging HDC to enforce these restrictions vigorously.
- A Traffic Regulation Order to prohibit lorry movements into and out of School Hill at the junction with Manleys Hill is also being implemented with advisory signs already in place.
- There is still the possibility of two bypasses on the A27 from Worthing and Arundel to give cars and lorries an alternative route in order to reduce congestion through Storrington and surrounding towns. Highways England are planning on starting the construction of the Arundel bypass by 2022 which will follow the preferred route to be announced in 2020. They have also looked into improvements between Worthing and Lancing.
- Changes to the crossings on the High Street have been considered in order to improve traffic flow.
The authorities can only do so much to tackle the high levels of pollution in Storrington and surrounding areas. What is important, is that everyone recognises the threat high levels of emissions have to our health, and acts accordingly to improve the local air quality.
It’s not just the through traffic
When walking through Storrington, it is not uncommon to see people leaving their vehicles running whilst stationary. You can see this when observing people stopping at cash points, shopping at Waitrose and even outside Storrington Primary School, when the jeopardy caused from toxic fumes into young lungs is at its highest.
Switch off and save
Turning off your car’s engine while stationary will not only help the environment, but will also save money and petrol. According to research conducted by Vehicle Lab, on average, an idling car wastes 1/7 to 1/5 of a gallon (0.6 – 0.9 litres) of petrol every hour. With petrol being about £1.28 per litre, every hour of idling could cost up to £1.15. Drivers turning off and restarting their car when stationary in traffic for more than 10 seconds actually uses less fuel than when their car is left running. In modern cars, starting the engine uses nowhere near as much fuel as older cars that would need a gush of fuel to start the engine.
The best way to improve our air quality is to come together and make changes to reduce our carbon footprint and save the environment. With pollution levels that have been higher than London’s, it is essential that we take action and make a change for the better.
To tackle this issue, Sussex Local will be pushing councils and others to campaign for switching off engines when stationary to help contribute to cleaner air in our local area. Everyone can help by:
- Turning off engines when sitting in traffic.
- Making sure engines are turned off when your car is parked, even when loading.
- Sharing lifts at busy times such as the school run or work commute to limit traffic.
- Wherever possible, using public transport, cycling or just walking.
Every individual action can make a dent – let’s see what we can do together.
Georgia Brown has started her second year Journalism Masters course. Jack Walker is in his A level year after which he aims to pursue a career in journalism.
We work and live in Storrington with our two young children, one of whom has mild asthma, so you could say we live and breathe this issue daily.
The issue came to a head a couple of months ago for us when someone told us they had seen powerful SUV with two exhausts belching out fumes into the faces of people walking up the slope into the Waitrose car park. There was no sign of the driver, but the passenger inside advised that the driver had gone shopping in Waitrose! On another occasion recently, I personally witnessed from our office window a car idling for no less than 20 minutes whilst the driver stood outside it on his phone. It is also not uncommon to see stationary cars with engines running and drivers sitting in them near Storrington Primary school.
As Georgia and Jack were with us in the Summer for a period, I asked them to research and write this article. I think they did a good job and hope you agree. All feedback would be welcome to [email protected]
By Georgia Brown & Jack Walker
This article first appeared in Sussex Local Magazine, Storrington edition October 2019