On Wednesday, the Asthma and Lung UK charity took a significant step in advocating for cleaner air and improved accessibility by presenting a petition to No. 10 Downing Street. This petition calls upon the Government to establish a “Cleaner Travel Access Fund” aimed at assisting individuals with lower incomes and those with disabilities to transition from older, more polluting vehicles to greener modes of transportation. These alternatives could include electric vehicles, e-bikes, or even free public transport passes.
Stoke-on-Trent, a region facing the 12th worst air quality in the UK alongside high levels of deprivation, served as the backdrop for this important event. Jo Gideon MP, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent Central, emphasised the urgent need to address the air quality crisis without unfairly burdening individuals with lower incomes. She stated, “This fund would bridge that gap and help everyone move towards, and benefit from, Clean Air solutions, adding a crucial positive dimension to local councils’ decision-making processes regarding air quality solutions.”
Victor Cholij, Chairperson of the local Breathe Easy support group for individuals with lung conditions, highlighted the severe implications of poor air quality on residents. ” There are around 35 000 residents of Stoke on Trent and North Staffs with a lung condition (such as Asthma and COPD) who are directly affected by poor air quality. It can trigger flare ups of their breathing difficulties, putting pressure on the NHS for treatment and support. It can lead to them being isolated at home on days of high pollution.
But we must also recognise that air pollution is an issue that affects everyone. We have to prevent people developing problems in the first place, especially our children. Air pollution has been shown to cause problems for children’s lung development, for pregnant women and people with cardiovascular conditions. It is linked to diabetes, dementia, and obesity.”
We need to all work together – the Government, the Council, local charities & communities, and the business sector – to make Stoke a cleaner, safer, healthier place not just to live but to thrive!”
A member of the group said: “The Cleaner Travel Access Fund is just one element of a wider approach that needs to be adopted.
We clearly have to invest in the alternatives to polluting cars and find other incentives as well.
In particular, we have to reverse the decline in the use of our bus service – it has to be more affordable, reliable and much more extensive. The council’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) is a good start.
We also have to invest in better cycling lanes and safe walking routes. We have greenways and canal network paths that might be better used. These “Active Travel” options are a great way to increase physical exercise too. Stoke council have recently been awarded £509K to improve these options.”