Leaders in Calderdale are at a crossroads in how to eliminate the “invisible killer”- pollution which affects the quality of the air in Calderdale.
Councillors agreed as much as possible needs to be done to solve the problem but differed into how to achieve the goal.
Eventually though they reached a consensus of how they could start to change something that was a real public health issue of concern.
Coun Howard Blagbrough (Con, Brighouse) introduced a motion to tackle Air Quality at full Calderdale Council as the borough was one of 23 local authorities in England that had failed to meet targets.
With proven correlation between poor Air Quality and poor health, especially heart disease and cancer, air pollution had to be tackled.
In the long term robust policy could save money, time and especially health and lives, said Coun Blagbrough.
“I would like to think we can make a difference if we work together,” he said.
Coun Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) said Calderdale Cabinets had not renewed the council’s Air Quality Action Plan since 2009 but this proposal would extend all-party involvement and address the issue as a borough, across all 17 wards.
Proposing an amendment, Coun Daniel Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) challenged some of his claims saying Calderdale has seven designated Air Quality Management areas covering many of its towns and highway routes. There were reports for every year – the issue had not been left on the shelf for almost a decade.
He argued it was not just up to local authorities, with systemic change needed which would require government intervention.
But whether nationally or locally, it would mean changes to people’s lifestyles which would not necessarily be popular – for example getting people out of their cars and onto buses and trains, and introducing electric cars, moving away from the pollution generated by diesel.
“We can’t deal with it by easy choices. They are often unpopular. People don’t like change and don’t want to change their lives for ephemeral gain for us all. But it is our responsibility to make some unpopular decisions sometimes,” he said.
Coun Ashley Evans (Lib Dem, Warley) agreed these were huge issues and complex problems but small things done locally could nevertheless make a difference, for example establishing low cost “green schemes” of urban vegetation that acted as pollution sinks removing some harmful emissions from the air.
Liberal Democrat leader James Baker said air pollution was an “invisible killer” and despite the meeting as a whole being a fractious one this was an issue all councillors agreed needed tackling.
Coun Benton said he was pleased all three parties were on the same page about the need to combat the problem and after receiving assurances that a substantial Air Quality Report being produced will be subject to scrutiny by councillors on an annual basis, there was a way forward.