Air pollution row over Standish road widening plan

Neighbourhood forum Standish Voice said School Lane, where there are plans to widen the road, is second worst in the borough for air pollution

Friday, 9th April 2021, 3:07 pm
Updated Friday, 9th April 2021, 3:08 pm
Coun Whittingham, Coun Parkinson, and then Standish Voice's Gill Foster and Paul Ogden with Coun Marsh

A residents’ group has accused Wigan Council of “double standards” on vehicle pollution amid controversial plans to widen a road.

The council is proposing to put a third lane of traffic on School Lane, in the centre of Standish, to improve traffic.

Plans for the route, which could cost up to £1.6m, have sparked fierce opposition from people concerned the proposals will actually promote more through traffic.

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Now Standish Voice, the village’s neighbourhood forum, have raised concerns about air pollution. They said the route is second worst in the whole borough out of almost 100 sites constantly tested for nitrogen dioxide.

The most up-to-date emissions figures show the road’s mean annual average for NO2 is 46.1 – over the legal limit of 40. Only six other places in Wigan and Leigh breach that legal level.

A spokesman for the group said: “Wigan Council should be trying to reduce pollution in the centre of our village – not increase it. This scheme will cost up to £1.6m and will have minimal impact on driving time, but will increase level of traffic going through the village and increase by up to a third the amount of standing traffic on School Lane at rush hours.”

The group said that, publicly, the council is committed to reducing emissions and traffic, but claimed the scheme will do the opposite, accusing the authority of “double standards” on pollution.

Research shows that dirty air is linked to 40,000 early deaths in the UK every year and scientists believe pollution is likely to be damaging every organ in the body.

A coroner’s report in December found that illegal levels of air pollution had contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah in 2013, who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham, south-east London.

The spokesman added: “Wigan Council wants to encourage children to walk to school. If they do and this plan goes ahead, the vast majority of pupils at Wood Fold Primary School would have to walk up School Lane – and through a soup of fumes.

“It is totally wrong.

“The opposition to this idea is overwhelming and we are sure will be reflected in the consultation Wigan Council has carried out, despite the survey being written to skew results towards this project.”

Mark Tilley, the council’s assistant director for infrastructure, said: “The road widening of School Lane will mean traffic flow is improved, leading to less congestion and reduce the risk of idling so therefore buy into carbon reduction targets set out locally.

“We are fully aware there was always going to be a range of opinions on what is the best solution, and that is why we ensured a detailed survey was shared in addition to holding a virtual consultation event which explained in finer detail some of the schemes to residents. We will continue to liaise with the public as the final plans are shaped.

“Wigan Council is continuously looking to introduce measures to support and encourage the greener forms of travel within the borough.”

As part of the Standish Infrastructure Assessment, the council also said alternative travel options have been proposed in the form of cycling and walking schemes. There were three proposal included within the residents’ survey:

l An extension to the Standish Mineral Line – connecting Robin Hill to Almond Brook Road;

l A strategic western connection from School Lane through to Gidlow and Wigan Town Centre (providing an alternative off-road route to the A49);

l A strategic eastern connection from Bradley Lane;

l Rectory Lane – across to Haigh/Aspull/Whelley Loop Line.

The authority said that the above cycle and walking schemes will contribute to providing a local and strategic real alternative to travel, other than motor vehicle. They also said this will reduce the number of vehicles on the road, congestion/delay and improve air quality.

They added that landscaping and the tree planting agenda will also contribute towards air quality.

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