‘Clean air emergency’ declared around Barnsley Hospital and schools by councillors

An ‘environmental clean air emergency’ has been declared in the area around Barnsley Hospital by councillors representing the area as they seek talks with health chiefs and the authority’s own highways department to reduce traffic.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 09 June, 2019, 14:34
Pollution: Councillors Clive Pickering, Jo Newing and Phillip Lofts want action to improve air quality around the hospital

Barnsley Hospital falls in the Old Town ward and all three Councillors, Phillip Lofts, Jo Newing and Clive Pickering, are so alarmed at pollution levels caused by traffic they are seeking urgent action.

The road network immediately outside the hospital has a crossroads at Pogmoor Road and Greenfoot Lane, with another busy junction into Summer Lane nearby and traffic volumes cause the area to become gridlocked during rush hours, while remaining busy throughout the day.

Now the councillors are alarmed at levels of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere in that area, because there are two primary schools – Summer Lane and St Mary’s – in the immediate vicinity.

According to Coun Lofts, recent Unicef research shows young children inhale larger volumes of air than older people, meaning they are taking in larger levels of pollutants.

At present, levels in Pogmoor Road and Gawber Road are just below the trigger level to be declared an air quality action zone, at 38.7 micrograms in a square metre of air, with the break point set by the Government at 40 mgs.

The councillors have already attempted to hold talks with the hospital, initially over parking issues caused by the site’s location, but said three appointments had been cancelled.

Now they are hoping to launch a dialogue with both the council’s highways officials and the hospital, which is acknowledged as not being the sole cause of the problem, but a contributor.

Coun Lofts said: “As the area of Gawber Road/Pogmoor Road traffic lights is adjacent to a school and through which pedestrians travel to school and the hospital, we are particularly concerned to raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution and to work with Barnsley Council and Barnsley Hospital to consider measures which will promote cleaner air, environmentally friendly travel and improved travel to work infrastructure.

“We shall also be working with South Yorkshire’s Active Travel champion under Mayor Dan Jarvis’ excellent initiative, to gain advice on healthier options for travel.

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“Our biggest concern is for infants who breath in three times as much as adults and children.

“These are the ages at which our children walk or otherwise travel to schools in the ward.

“We recognise that while Barnsley Council does not have the finances available to tackle polluted air our children in particular will be disadvantaged.

“We therefore call upon UK Government to fund an action plan for healthy air.

“In the meantime, we feel there is much which can by done by Barnsley Council’s highways department and Barnsley Hospital to shift traffic from residential areas.”

The councillors are awaiting the return of a Freedom of Information request to the hospital with details of their existing travel plan.

“We hope to be able to work with them to design improved arrangements for travel and parking in the ward,” he said.

The district’s ward alliance – a body made up of councillors and others involved in the community – has recently awarded funding to have bollards installed on grass verges on some residential streets, which had been used for parking by those attending the hospital.