Protesters take to Sheffield streets over air pollution

Activists staged a protest at one of Sheffield’s most traffic congested spots today to call for more to be done to tackle air pollution.

By Lee Peace
Thursday, 20 June, 2019, 18:17

About 50 members of the Barefoot Warriors, which is part of the larger Extinction Rebellion Sheffield activist group, took to Sheaf Street, outside Sheffield Railway Station, this evening to make their voices heard. 

Nathan Strathdee.

They chose today to make their point as it coincides with Clean Air Day, and they picked the location as it is one of the busiest places in the city for both road and rail traffic.

Previous protests have seen members of the Extinction Rebellion group block the road, which caused tensions to rise between motorists and protesters. 

This time time they chose to limit their plackard-waving protests to the roadside in order to ‘invite passers-by to engage in conversations about air pollution.’ 

Sheffield City Council has announced a raft of measures aimed at improving air quality.

One of the protest organisers, Nathan Strathdee, welcomed this but also urged them to get a move on.

He said: “We want urgent and dramatic steps taken to tackle air pollution and to protect the lives of people in Sheffield. 

“NHS figures have shown there are about 500 early deaths a year in Sheffield where air pollution has played a part.

“Other figures have shown there are 25 schools in the city in areas where there are high levels of nitrogen dioxide.

“Urgent action needs taking.” 

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He called for more car sharing schemes to be encouraged, plus more projects to urge people to get walking and cycling to reduce traffic emissions. 

The council has put forward a raft of proposals aimed at improving air quality, including installing more charging points for electric vehicles, encouraging taxi drivers to switch to electric cabs and improving red lights so traffic isn’t waiting as long. 

To mark Clean Air Day, the authority teamed up with staff and pupils from Nether Edge Primary and Watercliffe Meadow Community Primary School to close roads for the day to encourage parents to leave their cars at home on the school run.

This builds on previous action to give officials the power to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers for leaving their engines running in designated areas outside schools.

In addition, a £5 million project is seeing buses upgraded to the cleanest models available.

The Streets Ahead team is also gearing up to run another 15 electric vehicles to replace its current diesel vehicles as part of its commitment to reducing carbon emissions and air pollution.

Lewis Dagnall, cabinet member for environment, street scene and climate change, said: “Air pollution is closely related to climate crisis – they’re both products of an unsustainable way of living.

“We have just over decade to achieve a transition to carbon neutrality, in order to avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change.

“The steps we’re taking to support clean vehicles are important first steps towards this.”