Deadline to sort town’s traffic fumes - parents urged to walk children to school in Ampthill

Ampthill town centre.
Ampthill town centre.

Pollution from traffic fumes is now so bad in the centre of Ampthill that parents are being urged to walk their children to school instead of driving.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide – an evil-smelling gas that can cause respiratory problems – are higher than Government targets.

And Central Bedfordshire Council have been given an 18-month deadline to rectify the situation.

They are proposing to make parts of the historic Georgian market town into Air Quality Management Areas.

The biggest problem is in Bedford Street, where snarled-up rush hour traffic is made worse by people queuing to turn into the Waitrose car park.

Neighbouring Church Street and Dunstable Street, where the road is narrow and buildings are close to the kerb, also suffer.

The town’s Mayor, Councillor Mike Blair, told Ampthill TV that around 150 people live in the affected area.

But he insisted that nitrogen dioxide levels – which reached 53.3mg in 2010 before dropping to 43.3 in 2013 – were only “marginally” higher than the Government’s 40mg target.

And he claimed somebody would have to stand by the road all day long before their health suffered.

Councillor Brian Spurr, Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive member for sustainable communities, promised full consultation with residents before any action was taken.

He told Ampthill TV interviewer Chris Hayes that one solution might be to move the existing bus stops 20 yards further down Bedford Street away from the centre.

He said: “We need to keep traffic moving better. So perhaps we can stop some cars by getting people to walk their kids to school.”

But he promised: “There will be no draconian solutions. We are not going to stop traffic coming through Ampthill and go back to horses.

“We have 18 months to tweak things and solve the problem without detriment to the town.”

Residents posting on the Ampthill TV Forum website, though, were unimpressed. Several blamed local councilors for the increased traffic by allowing so many housing developments to be built around the town.

Scrabbler said: “All smoke and mirrors. Moving bus stops and sharing car rides to school seem very lame ideas.

‘I am sure someone is now going to pop up and tell us it is because of EU Regulations.”

Sizzla added: “The worst polluters are surely buses, which spew copious diesel fumes, cause blockages in the centre, and most of the time run virtually empty.”

Moaning Git said: “The whole thing is a gimmick in my very humble opinion and seems to be some local unnecessary civil servant dreaming up unworkable ideas to keep themselves in gainful employment.”