Shocking images aimed at driving home the health dangers of poor air quality will spearhead an awareness campaign.
Calderdale Council’s hard hitting images – including a child and a car driver both wearing gas masks – will feature at the launch of Let’s Clear The Air on national Clean Air Day, Thursday, June 20.
One political group leader said the council has gone “full on Threads” – a reference to the 1980s apocalyptic war drama screened by the BBC.
The campaign images show a variety of people in everyday situations, such as driving a car, playing in a school playground and walking along a Calderdale street.
However, their faces are covered by protective masks, including gas masks, giving a surreal and disturbing aspect to an otherwise ordinary setting and the strong images are needed to help get the message home that action needs to be taken now, said Cabinet member for Climate Change and Environment, Coun Scott Patient (Lab, Luddenden Foot).
“Air pollution is dangerous – it harms our health and the environment.
“Our Let’s Clear the Air campaign is purposely shocking, as we need to be very clear that local people are at risk and the problem won’t go away unless we address it.
“We need to protect ourselves and each other by taking collective action to improve air quality, and we need to do it quickly,” he said.
The council says air pollution may be invisible, but it is a real issue in Calderdale – not just in big cities, cannot be ignored and action needs taking now, before it is too late.
The campaign has received different reactions from other local politicians.
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Coun James Baker (Warley) has tweeted: “Wow – Calderdale has gone full on ‘Threads’ with these dark and dystopian clean air adverts.”
And referring to the council’s upcoming 50th anniversary goals that he added he had often heard Chief Executive Robin Tuddenham and Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) talk about Vision 2024 but “I just never realised it was so dark and dystopian. I’m a big fan of post apocalyptic genre though so kind of like it.”
Conservative Group Leader Coun Scott Benton (Brighouse) was not impressed, accusing the council of “virtue signalling” and raised the issue of the Local Plan, which if approved could see thousands of new homes built in the Brighouse and lower Calder Valley areas.
He tweeted: “Pathetic virtue signalling from @Calderdale who are running an ‘air quality campaign’ whilst pushing ahead plans for a huge business park and 3,000 houses next to an existing Air Quality Management Zone with a proven record of poor air quality.
“The reality is that – in their rush towards concreting over the Green Belt in Brighouse – they couldn’t give a damn for the impact on the local environment or people’s health in Brighouse.”
The council campaign will be run using social media, radio advertising, media stories and banners outside schools.
Changes it is is asking local people to take action of their own by making changes to their daily lives – for example, by making more sustainable travel choices like walking, cycling and public transport.
On Clean Air Day and beyond, the council is also asking staff, residents and organisations to make cleaner, greener travel choices, and to post their experience on social media using the hashtag #LetsClearTheAir.
The initial focus of Let’s Clear the Air is to combat vehicle idling, where a vehicle’s engine is left running while it is stationary.
The campaign will follow the council’s Cabinet debating new Air Qaulity policy when it meets next Tuesday, June 18.
Cabinet agreed to reconsider the policy earlier this year after criticism from some Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors it did not have enough detail or resources.
The Labour group argue the council cannot do it all alone and the wider community must also play its part in reducing emissions and the campaign will urge people to do their bit to improve air quality in the borough.