Swaffham air quality survey begins

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A public consultation on potential measures to improve air quality in Swaffham has been launched.

A report outlining more than 20 options, including a potential new bypass, tighter restrictions on lorries in the town centre and the creation of new green spaces, has also been published.

And Breckland Council chiefs have urged residents to have their say on the issue over the next few weeks.

Peter Wilkinson, who chairs an authority-led steering group on the issue, thanked all residents who attended a consultation session at the town’s Assembly Rooms on Friday.

He said: “All residents comments and opinions on the Breckland draft plan will be, examined and consulted on at our next steering group meeting.”

The steering group also includes representatives of the town council, Norfolk County Council, Public Health Norfolk and other organisations.

The consultation is part of ongoing work to draw up an action plan after parts of the town centre were designated as an air quality management area last May.

That means current standards do not meet national targets, though officials say pollution levels are low, and local authorities have to draw up proposals to tackle the problem.

A consultation document, published to coincide with the survey launch, contains 22 separate proposals which could be taken forward to address the issue.

They include preliminary investigations into the possiblity of a north-south bypass, linking the A1065 with the A47, and a ban on lorries coming into the town centre.

Other potential measures include encouraging car clubs to reduce vehicle ownership, greater use of public transport, the provision of vehicle charging points in the town centre, the creation of extra green spaces and potential changes to parking policies and rules.

A separate consultation is also under way on plans to reinstate two hour time limits on stays at three town centre car parks.

The report also suggests that air quality issues should be taken into consideration both in relation to individual planning applications and within the development of future local plans.

But officials say residents should come forward with their own ideas if they believe there are issues the new document does not address.

And Andrew Grimley, environmental protection team leader for Breckland Council, said future proposals would have to acknowledge public opinion.

He said: “If people want to come to Swaffham and their main reason is they can easily park in the Market Place, we need to take account of that.”

Full details of the consultation are available online at www.breckland.gov.uk/air-quality-consultation. Printed copies can also be obtained from the town’s library, the Green Britain Centre or by calling the council on 01362 656870.

The consultation runs until February 23. Responses will then be reviewed before a draft plan is submitted to the government later this year.