36,000 people in Suffolk live close to areas of poor air quality

Concerns have been raised about rising vehicle emissions in parts of Suffolk

Concerns have been raised about rising vehicle emissions. Credit- SIMON PARKER - Credit: SIMON PARKER

Tougher measures are needed to reduce air pollution levels and protect public health in Suffolk, it has been warned.

A report prepared for Suffolk Health and Wellbeing Board by Stuart Keeble, Suffolk County Council's director of public health, has highlighted nine mainly urban areas where air quality is a concern including Ipswich, Woodbridge, Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds. 

The data also showed that pollution had begun to rise again since the end of lockdown restrictions which had reduced traffic levels during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In March 2021, concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) were 20% higher than in March 2020 in parts of Ipswich, although levels were still 15% lower than pre-pandemic in March 2019. 

The figures show in Suffolk's nine air quality management areas there are 853 people living within the zones, 7,545 within 100metres, and 36,564 within 500metres.

The report recommends that the board takes ongoing action to improve air quality, especially in the worst areas. 

Areas with poor air quality include Thoroughfare in Woodbridge, Cross Street in Sudbury and Sicklesmere Road in Bury St Edmunds. 

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Figures from UK Health and Security Agency reveal that poor air quality kills between 28,000 and 36,000 people annually in the UK, mainly in more deprived areas where people lived closer to busy main roads. 

A range of serious health complications are believed to be caused by air pollution, including lung cancer and strokes. 

County councillor Simon Harley, who represents the Green Party in Shotley peninsula, said his party was proposing a number of measures to try and reduce the impact of vehicle emissions. 

These included accelerating the change to cleaner vehicles, keeping older diesel vehicles out of towns and reducing speed limits to 20mph in towns. 

He said: “It is certainly a concern and we are preparing practical measures to help with it. I think the Government is moving in the right direction, but it could be quicker. In particular, having legislation to reduce speed limits and keep dirty vehicles out of towns and encourage walking.”

Suffolk director of public health Stuart Keeble has warned that covid case numbers are rising rapidl

Suffolk director of public health Stuart Keeble has warned that covid case numbers are rising rapidly. - Credit: Suffolk County Council

Mr Keeble said: “Air quality continues to be an important public health issue, with several harmful health impacts involved with poor air quality.” 

He added continued efforts would be needed to address air quality as the county exits the pandemic. 

“Work has already been done with partners to tackle some localised air quality issues, such as moving pedestrian crossings or changing speed limits. Suffolk’s Air Quality Partnership, has supported a number of Air Quality Webinars and the development of the Suffolk Anti-Idling toolkit,” he said.