The Canterbury Green Party has told the city council that it is not taking the issue of pollution seriously enough.
At a meeting in the Guildhall tonight (Wednesday) the Conservative-controlled authority agreed to put out its air quality action plan for public consultation.
It invites residents’ opinions on a raft of proposals for reducing congestion, improving air quality and lowering car use in Canterbury.
But Green Party spokesman Henry Stanton argued the action plan would prove inadequate in making any meaningful effect on air quality – and therefore on people’s health.
He said: “Your report claims nitrogen dioxide as the main pollutant of concern. But the most serious pollution, the PM 2.5 particles, the ones that get into organs, brains and foetuses, you don’t monitor for at all.
“These particles have been linked to poorer memory, attention and vocabulary, to below-average performance on intelligence tests, and to delinquent behaviour.
“Air pollution has also been implicated in developmental disorders ranging from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to autism spectrum disorders.
“These particles inflame the cells around them and in experiments on mice, the inflammation can be seen a full two months after exposure to air pollution has ended.”
Mr Stanton, who stood for election to Parliament in 2017, said he did not believe that the council was committed to improving air quality because it had approved the construction of a 374-space multi-storey car park in Station Road West.
He added: “This plan will not do its job and a close look at this plan makes it clear that the council does not take the issue of air pollution seriously enough.”
Steve Coombs, a member of campaign group Get Canterbury Moving which opposed the 2012-2013 Westgate Traffic Trial, told the committee that he feared the authority was “patently anti-car”.
He accused Greens of “scaremongering with unsubstantiated claims of premature deaths based on flimsy and questionable statistics”.
Cllr Steve Williams, the Barton ward Conservative, predicted the consultation would produce mixed results.
“If we ask anybody whether they want to improve air quality, they would say ‘yes’,” he said.
“But this is not a straightforward topic and if you dig into it, there are an awful lot of complexities. I’m keen to hear what members of the public have to say, but I do not think they will speak as one.”
Labour group leader Cllr Alan Baldock added: “We have got to do something to improve air quality. We have got to be bold and imaginative. This is problem which will go on for the next 20 or 30 years.”
The council will now puts its consultation paper out to the public. The policy and resources committee is due to discuss the findings in October before moving forward with it.