Taking a Deep Breath: event links and comment

On 10th June 2021 Professor Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, was the main contributor to ‘Taking a Deep Breath’, describing the impact of traffic pollution on health, and Born in Bradford’s work to evaluate the Clean Air Zone. Please have a look at the event introduction, short film and Rosie’s presentation here (altogether 54 minutes), the written summary of the questions, answers and discussion here, and Rosie’s slides here.

This post introduces the presentation by a very brief overview, and lists some limitations of the Clean Air Zone observed during the discussion.

Rosie described the impact of air pollution, now mainly from traffic emissions, on health. A quarter of Bradford’s childhood asthma has been attributed to poor air quality.  Air quality is also implicated in cancer, stroke, children born with low birthweight and a whole host of other health outcomes. The poorest areas are the worst affected. The aim of the Council’s government-funded Clean Air Plan and Zone is to bring air quality within legal limits across the District. The Zone covers all Bradford within the ring road, and the valley up to and including Shipley. It is due to start early in 2022.

Born in Bradford’s role is to provide an independent evaluation of how air quality changes with the introduction of the Clean Air Zone. They will use not only their own work but also health data for all Bradford residents, air quality monitoring from Council sensors already in place and from pupils in 12 schools inside and outside the Clean Air Zone, who will wear sensors on their journey between home and school. A survey on the attitudes and behaviour of Bradford residents to air quality is already providing contextual information.

All those involved would be delighted if the Clean Air Plan and Zone improve air quality not only for Nitrogen Dioxide which is currently above legal limits in some areas, but also for other emissions and particulate matter. The evaluation will show whether this is the case, and its results will indicate best practice for other cities’ implementation of Clean Air Zones.

As Anna Watson, Shipley Town Councillor and facilitator of the event stressed, Bradford is privileged to have the scientific expertise and experience to allow this evaluation by the Bradford Institute for Health Research and Born in Bradford.

Some questions were raised about other developments such as the Bradford-Shipley road scheme’s  increase in traffic, and the dangers that would remain even if air quality were within legal limits. These questions are summarised here, without reducing the positive contribution of the evaluation from Born in Bradford which had event participants’ fulsome support.

  • The Clean Air Zone is dictated by government funding which is limited to be the least stringent regulation that will bring the District’s pollution levels with UK legal limits on nitrogen dioxide. It is not aimed at bringing air quality to a considerably better level than the dirtiness which is inside the law. Policies aimed at climate survival or healthy clean air, need further actions.
  • The CAZ funding does not give car owners support to change their vehicles to cleaner engines, or to leave their car at home. Inequality of access to non-polluting transport is not addressed, because people on low incomes can less afford it. Funding to allow the poorest to have cleaner cars and use different modes of transport would be a major contribution to cleaner air that is not within this government clean air policy.
  • Monitoring the CAZ will monitor the overall impact of the CAZ and all other interventions that happen at the same time. It is not a tightly controlled experiment where nothing else is changing at the same time. These changes may include the disruption of building a new Bradford-Shipley traffic route, bus improvements, and other changes. To the extent that statistical modelling cannot disentangle the impact of different interventions, the relevance of the results for other places will be weakened.

Is car ownership another pandemic?

Will Sanderson contributes this blog from Shipley and Saltaire Living Streets

Reports of another pandemic are starting to buzz on the news wires. It is more insidious than the one we’ve just lived through, and we’re already losing the race to find a solution. As it travels invisibly through the air causing respiratory disease and excess deaths, people get scared. Tragically, this one also kills kids. Social interactions are curtailed, communities feel the strain, mental health suffers. The poorest are hit hardest, but we all start to feel powerless and disenfranchised. The next pandemic is car-owner virus.

Car dominance, and the entitlement it engenders in drivers, has a lot to answer for: contributing to climate change, polluting the air we breathe, making conversation in the street difficult and unpleasant, isolating the elderly and disabled, disturbing our sleep, contributing to roadside litter, and resulting directly in avoidable injury and deaths.

According to the Council’s own reports, cars are the biggest contributor to air pollution in Bradford, causing 1 in 20 early deaths in the region, and costing local NHS Trusts around £3million per year. Around 200 people are killed or seriously injured on Bradford’s roads every year. And still, millions of pounds are being spent adding capacity to the road network, while too little is done to provide the infrastructure and incentives for alternative modes of transport. This is why 40% of journeys under 2 miles are currently made by car. Now is the time to enable and encourage active travel: a simple lifestyle change that has such enormous health and social benefits.

Shipley & Saltaire Living Streets, in support of the excellent campaigning done by the Bradford Shipley Travel Alliance, Clean Air Bradford, and Friends of the Earth, are calling for an end to car-centric thinking in planning and transport (avoid), more joined-up cycling and walking routes (shift), and measures to prevent antisocial driving, parking and rat-running (improve). We need your help! Commit to leaving the car at home whenever possible, or get in touch to join our team. We especially need some help from parents of primary-aged children (to start a walking/cycling bus and play streets), young adults with a flair for social media (to run our accounts), and artistic folk (to do some tactical urbanism).

We have a choice, now, between a cleaner future for people, places and our planet, or continuing with activities which damage our health and environment. Walk with us.

Affiliate spotlight: Veg on the Edge

In the first of our blogs from affilliates, Margot Rowan describes Veg on the Edge

We are a group of volunteers who work together in Saltaire transforming plots of under-used land into community food growing spaces. We meet regularly through the seasons planning, digging, composting, planting, watering, weeding. Once the vegetables, fruit and herbs are ready to eat, everyone is welcome to help themselves and enjoy the produce.

Our plots are well used by people living and working nearby who appreciate access to package-free, fresh, healthy ingredients grown locally in pleasant green surroundings. Just now we have herbs and salad ingredients ready to be picked, lots more in the days to come ….

Members of Veg on the Edge are concerned about the impact of traffic pollution on food production and soil quality near to busy roads. They also know that an appropriate green infrastructure can reduce public exposure to air pollution in the urban environment. They would like these issues to be part of the council’s agenda when planning.

Currently we have 5 growing spaces – The Sunday School Garden in Caroline Street, The Japanese Edible Garden on Exhibition Road, Platform One at Saltaire Railway Station, The Wash House Garden on Caroline Street and The Baker Beds at the far end of Caroline Street.

As well as cultivating our edible crops we are involved in many local events.

You may see us at Saltaire Festival in September.

New members of all ages are very welcome. Gardening expertise is not necessary. 

To find out more about us or join in our activities visit our website: www.vegontheedge.org 

Taking a deep breath: June 10th 7:30pm

Professor Rosie McEachan of the Bradford Institute for Health Research, will be speaking about Air quality, health and Born in Bradford’s plans to evaluate the Bradford Clean Air Plan. It will be a chance to ask questions and join discussion, and all are welcome. Rosie is an applied health researcher, and director of the Born in Bradford study which follows the lives of over 50,000 Bradford residents to explore why some families stay healthy and why others fall ill.

Register for the meeting here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taking-a-deep-breath-tickets-152426051423. The meeting will be on Zoom.

Please advertise widely and come to this discussion which will be supported by other clean air scientists, and the campaigning group Clean Air Bradford. Organised by the Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance, concerned about health and climate impact of traffic schemes between Bradford and Shipley.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/taking-a-deep-breath-tickets-152426051423

Is anyone there? Just what are the scheme’s aims…

No-one has been willing to state the aims of this Bradford-Shipley road scheme. Our last newsletter pointed out the contradiction between its original justification – to increase traffic as a means of stimulating economic growth – and the current aims of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) to reduce traffic to avert climate catastrophe. Each scheme document states a different set of aims.

As promised, we wrote to Bradford Council on 8th March to ask for the scheme’s Benefits Realisation Plan, which all WYCA schemes must have. This would lay out the scheme aims, and how they will be ensured.

Not receiving an acknowledgement or a reply during March, we approached the Councillor responsible for the scheme, Alex Ross-Shaw, who followed it up and assured us that a response would be forthcoming “in due course”.

As of 24th April, there still is no reply.

We also asked for the assumptions being made for scenarios of future traffic. The scenarios, or forecasts, will be core evidence to judge the scheme’s impact on our health. We would like to engage with the Council in a helpful collaborative manner to get the best scheme possible.

No answer to that one, either.

We will knock on the door again in every way we can think of, you can be sure.

CERPs – an acronym to remember

There are many welcome promises to take climate change seriously, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 in Leeds and many other Councils, or by 2038 in Bradford, West Yorkshire and many others, or by 2050 for the UK government.

But rare are the plans that work backwards from a target like those, to lay out just what needs to be done to reach it in the time available.

All credit to West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) for their report last July, Carbon Emission Reductions Pathways, or CERPs for short.

It explored three pathways, none of which would reach the net zero carbon target of 2038 entirely. Each would leave between 18% and 27% of further reductions that required “a combination of specific, ambitious measures and innovative new technologies as they become available”.

The minimum requirements of the least ambitious pathway include a 21% reduction in car miles travelled. The most ambitious pathway reckons on a 37% reduction in car miles travelled. Both also assume a hefty shift to electric-powered vehicles. All the pathways say that a shift from car to walking, cycling, bus and train is necessary. Necessary to avert what Bradford Council called ‘the enormous harm’ associated with global warming by 2 degrees centigrade, in its declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

All the pathways demand retrofitting 700,000 houses with insulation, shifting to renewable energy sources, restoring peatland, planting 420 football pitches of trees, and reducing food waste by over one third.

The July 2020 report expected public consultation by December 2020, and WYCA urged further work on measuring carbon emissions. It is nearly a year later and there has not been further public information. But the work is ongoing and shows the scale of change necessary to avert human catastrophe in Bradford as elsewhere.

The CERPs report is essential guidance to all that is coming.

Bradford District Plan: Fancy decoration around a poisoned chalice?

The District Plan includes policies on transport, the environment, and a section on the ‘Canal Road Corridor’. So Bradford Shipley Travel Alliance commented with our focus on that ‘corridor’ and our concerns on health, safety and averting climate catastrophe. We made it clear that our response did not distract from comments that any of our supporting organisations may make.

We applauded the policy for 15-minute neighbourhoods with all services close to housing developments. We welcomed the policies favouring housing developments without increasing car traffic, and the policy for carbon neutrality by 2038. All were all positive and necessary. But there seem to be major contradictions between these strategic policies and the current plans for Canal Road, which were drawn up a dozen years ago under different priorities.

We said that “The Plan’s strategic priorities should be defended against contrary measures in current plans, not tucked around them like fancy decoration around a poisoned chalice.”

The District Plan does not temper or alter the Canal Road scheme in order to meet the new priorities. The housing developments in Bolton Woods have no conditions to reduce car travel, no conditions to insist on car clubs, active travel (bikes and walking), or buses. The plan protects a route for creation of extra traffic capacity between Bradford and Baildon (the Shipley Eastern Relief Road). It sees Canal Road and Valley Road becoming “a streamlined high-capacity route”. These plans fly in the face of the Council’s support for Carbon Emissions Reductions that require a significant reduction in car traffic. The scheme incorporated into the District Plan puts more pressure on the traffic bottleneck of Shipley rather than reduces it.

Isn’t it poor planning to declare the destination is one place, traffic reduction and sustainable development, but accept without comment projects that will instead take us to somewhere else? 

The full responses from BSTA are at https://bsta.org.uk/wp/wp-admin/upload.php?item=105

Shipley Town Council’s gave an extensive response to the District Plan, which can be read here: https://shipleytowncouncil.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/draft-local-plan-response-final-ja.pdf. It included a comment on the road plan between Bradford and Shipley: “We are concerned about the impact of the Bradford-Shipley Route Improvement Scheme on Shipley. This road scheme is designed to increase road carrying capacity on Canal, Valley and Otley Roads and as a result will, through induced demand encourage more traffic onto the roads. This increase in traffic is highly likely to have a specific negative impact on Shipley. It will increase congestion, air and noise pollution as well as rat-running and will have a negative impact on community wellbeing through community severance caused by wide, congested roads.”

BSTA ways of working – proposal for comment by 21 March 2021

Bradford-Shipley Travel Alliance (BSTA) is made up of (a) organisations joining it, which each have a member who passes news between the organisation’s members and BSTA, and (b) individuals who have signed up for the BSTA newsletter, for example on the website.

BSTA will work by consensus, based on its founding statement:

Any new road scheme between Bradford and Shipley must result in:

  • Significantly improved air quality and safety in all residential areas affected by the proposed scheme, including for all schools.
  • A response to the climate emergency including reduced carbon emissions, increased investment in public transport, walking and cycling, and less motor traffic overall.

We request that no further consultation goes ahead without information that shows how the intended benefits of the scheme will be guaranteed.

Actions within the founding statement can be made in the name of the Alliance by its organising team. That team currently is in practice Ludi Simpson, Dave Robison and Kath Jackson. The team will be added to by anyone who wishes to volunteer from member organisations or individuals who have signed up to the Alliance.

Actions that go beyond the founding statement will be necessary to respond to the progress of the road scheme. Proposals for such actions will be made by the organising team, and circulated to member organisations with a deadline for comment, usually at least a week but this may depend on the nature of the proposal. Lack of comment will be taken as approval. Any proposed changes to a proposal will be negotiated by the organising team.

Please comment below, or by email to admin@bsta.org.uk. Thank you!

Notes:

BSTA is not an organisation with a constitution and elected officers. It would need to be constituted in this way if it were to handle money, apply for funding and so on, though it could also do these things at the moment by relying on the facilities of any one of its members.

At 4th March 2021 there were 13 organisations in the Alliance as listed below, and 22 other individuals signed up to the newsletter.

Shipley Veg on the Edge, Friends of the Earth Baildon & Shipley, Clean Air Bradford, St Paul’s Church, Shipley and Saltaire Living Streets, Saltaire Women’s Institute, Norwood Neighbourhood Association, XR Shipley & Bradford, Shipley Town Council, Shipley Ward and Shipley Constituency Labour Party, Green Party Shipley, Keighley and Shipley Liberal Democrats. All three Shipley councillors to Bradford District Council (Vick Jenkins, Martin Love and Kevin Warnes) support the Alliance.

Bradford Shipley Travel Alliance has eighteen organisations and is growing

Shipley Town Council, Norwood Neighbourhood Association, Bradford and Shipley XR and Saltaire Women’s Institute are the latest to add their voices to the concerns on how the Bradford-Shipley traffic scheme is unfolding.

Please sign up as an individual and think whether your community organisation might also. You will get occasional newsletters and can add your views and weight to the consultation with Bradford Council and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

The currently ambiguous aims of the road scheme mean a likely increase in urban traffic, encouraging extra travel by car at a time when all levels of government have declared a climate emergency that calls for less traffic. Safety issues including high air pollution levels in residential areas and especially around schools trouble us too. The BSTA will shortly be repeating its request for much more information about these aspects of the scheme, calling for guarantees of considerably less pollution than at present.

The organisations joining the Alliance so far are Shipley Veg on the Edge, Friends of the Earth Baildon & Shipley, Clean Air Bradford, St Paul’s Church, Shipley and Saltaire Living Streets, Saltaire Women’s Institute, Norwood Neighbourhood Association, XR Shipley & Bradford, Shipley Town Council, Shipley Ward and Shipley Constituency Labour Party, Green Party Shipley, Keighley and Shipley Liberal Democrats. All three Shipley councillors to Bradford District Council (Jenkins, Love and Warnes) support the Alliance. The Alliance is not affilated to any political party but welcomes wide support and involvement.

UPDATE AUGUST 2021

Additional organisations joined the Alliance to bring the total to 18: Friends of Northcliffe; Wycliffe Neighbourhood Association; Access for the Disabled Bradford; Bradford and Shipley Trades Union Council; Heaton Branch Labour Party.