All of us suffer as the city’s air quality gets worse


There were angry scenes in the Canterbury City Council chamber after its planning committee approved the multi-storey car park for Station Road West. Prof Stephen Peckham led opposition to it. This is the speech he made to councillors:

The National Planning Policy Framework requires the council to ensure that people are protected from the adverse effects of pollution and planning decisions sustain compliance with, and contribute towards, national objectives for pollutants.

In Canterbury, air quality is getting worse. The council is having to extend the Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and more people – especially children – are suffering the effects of pollution on their health.

In St Dunstan’s, levels of NO2 within the AQMA are above national limits. The submitted air quality assessments supporting this development acknowledge that it will lead to increased pollution levels – despite the proposed mitigation.

The air quality assessment report is flawed with modelled estimates substantially different to actual monitored levels.

How can the average speed in this area used for modelling be 27mph when there is a 20mph zone and for some 15 minutes every hour traffic is at a standstill?

Prof Stephen Peckham: People are suffering

It also predicts that as a result of construction, the levels of NO2 in Station Road West will rise to 17µg/m-3, yet current monitored levels at this point are already nearly twice this at 30µg/m-3.

Recent rulings in the courts highlight the need for planning decisions to adequately address air quality issues and ensure AQMA’s are compliant.

In particular, recent judgements in Shirley vs SoS and in Client Earth 3, by Justices Dove and Garnham, make clear the responsibility of local authorities to reduce levels of pollution to meet Article 13 of the Air Quality Directive.

Permission must be refused either because the Air Quality Directive requires councils where directive limits are exceeded to avoid developments – such as the car park – which will lead to a further increase in emissions affecting the AQMA.

And because the council has a duty to use any power to achieve compliance with Article 13 in accordance with the 2017 National Air Quality Plan which requires places such as Canterbury to take steps now to reduce emissions if there are measures they could take to ensure compliance as soon as possible.

As acknowledged in the planning officer’s report the air quality assessment also fails to meet the costs of mitigation.

However, no additional conditions relating to the funding of mitigation or its adequacy are contained in the report.

The only viable mitigation to achieve compliance would be a reduction in traffic levels.

Stephen Peckham is professor of health policy at the University of Kent. He is a clean air campaigner and lives in St Augustine’s Road, Canterbury.


  1. I wonder if Professor Peckham could provide figures showing that pollution is getting worse, maybe a 15 year spread of readings to show just how bad it has got. I get a bit annoyed that people keep saying things are better or worse, but never produce any data over the long term to support their claims


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