Local Matters with Mione Goldspink
The Indian Government seems to have greater courage than East Herts or Hertfordshire County Councils. It has taken positive action to reduce the Air Pollution in Delhi. It has rationed the number of cars that are permitted to drive in the city, it has closed some coal-fired power stations and it has suspended the use of some diesel-powered generators. These seem to be drastic and heavy handed actions, infringing on people's individual freedoms, and that may well be true, but the Government felt that this was the only way to tackle an emergency situation, which was threatening the lives of millions of citizens. A similar emergency situation (albeit on a smaller scale) is here on our doorstep: at Hockerill Crossroads in Bishop's Stortford. The problem was identified 9 years ago: The pollution by nitrogen dioxide was measured as 76micograms per cubic metre, nearly double the World Health Organisation's recommendation for the upper limit. So this has really serious health implications for all of us, and especially for children, who travel by vehicle or on foot, through the traffic lights at Hockerill. Liberal Democrats have been calling on the District Council to take some action and stop just talking about the problem. The latest LINK Magazine from East Herts suggests that we should turn off car engines if we are stationary for more than a minute, or that we should consider using public transport. Many new cars do have a stop/start facility, but cars are stopped not only by the lights being red but also by cars turning right, and once they move then traffic can flow. So how do you know if you are going to be stopped for a minute? A string of count-down display panels along each road telling how long the red phase will last could help - perhaps worth a try? Other actions that could be taken, suggested by Liberal Democrats in the last nine years, include:
1) changing the phasing of the lights. North bound and south bound traffic should have unique green lights, so that right turning traffic does not impede other vehicles. 2) Explore the feasibility of demolishing the building on the corner by the little flower bed and widening the road, 3) Provide more buses from all parts of the Town at rush hours, 4) Build a south east By-pass for the Town - very costly, but it could be part-funded by the developers who are trying to build even more homes around the Town. At the moment, people of Bishop's Stortford are paying a very hefty price in the toll on their health and inefficiency and delays in their business, leisure and school journeys. These may appear to be drastic solutions, but, as in India, drastic emergencies demand some Drastic Actions.
There are two public consultations in progress at the moment: Bishop's Stortford Town Centre Planning Framework, and also the East Herts District Plan. Both have Questionnaires that need to be completed. I have been to look at the exhibition for the first. There are attractive artist's impressions for Old River Lane, although some of the text can only be read if you sit on the floor! I would encourage everyone to have their say on these developments, and then check in the years ahead that the Framework or Plans really do influence what happens on the ground. The record of the Conservative Controlled Councils over the past few years, so often, has been to disregard the people's ideas and to favour the developer.
I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas.
Mione Goldspink. (Chairman Bishop's Stortford Liberal Democrats).
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