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With a possible 10,000+ new homes coming to Crawley how can pollution levels be controlled?

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Let me begin by saying I am no eco-warrior. I have no passion to paint up a placard and march across the country waving it around claiming we are all doomed. I am more than happy to instead drive, yes drive to the local drive-thru and pick up a meal to then watch the news of others doing the protesting.

But like millions of others like me I am also aware there is an issue and I almost need to be ordered into doing something about it.

We have all heard the arguments surrounding the use of the emergency runway at Gatwick including those about whether there would be an increase in pollution levels.

No doubt those against the increase in air traffic at Gatwick will use this story as another PR exercise to try to demand that it never happens, but this is a pollution story that many will not be aware of.

Crawley is, compared to other local authorities across the county, one of the smallest. In-fact it only covers 45 Sq Km but due to its commercial district and proximity to the airport has one of the largest employment densities in the country.

This obviously means that there are a lot of commuters coming in and out of the town every single day, including weekends and so it can be considered little surprise that the towns Nitrogen dioxide levels are above average.

Crawley Council instigated an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) to monitor the levels. The area, indicated in blue below shows the small area, particularly along roads, that it covers.

This was setup in 2015 however and the council have ever since been working on ways to lower the pollution levels.

BUT when you look at the latest report published by Crawley Council (click here for the report) in 2019 and in particular at the section on ‘Actions to Improve Air Quality’, there seems to be a noticable lack in awareness of where the problems lie by the suggested remedies.

An AQMA is put in place to cover a particular area for a reason. It is designated that the placement of the AQMA is that this is the area that needs most addressing. With this in mind note that the area in question is the main arterial road entry into the town. It covers the A2011 dual carriageway which leads down from the M23 and then splinters off into four main roads into and around the town.

Now look at the Councils proposals:

A local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, a local transport strategy setting out better connectivity, walking, cycling and electric vehicle infrastructure, grant funding to schools and businesses on education and more support and advice on emissions including the implementation of a free messaging service to alert local people with breathing problems of any issues.

Sounds all very good, doesn’t it? But how does any of that address the area concerned. Let me explain. Commuter A lives in Brighton. He drives up the A23 then M23 to Junction 10 where he then takes the dual carriageway into Crawley and then into Manor Royal for his work. He is not going to walk nor take his life into his hands cycling along the dual carriageway. His business may hand him a leaflet about car emissions but he has no interest in receiving an eAlert about polution so sets about his working day before he drives home to his family whose children do not go to school in Crawley and therefore get no education on the pollution problems in the town.

The point is that on paper the actions proposed sound good but in practical terms will not really address the issue.

A council spokesperson said:

“Crawley Borough Council acknowledges that the Highways Team at West Sussex County Council can do little to instantly reduce traffic on the affected busy roads in our town. As a consequence, and while such measures are formulated, we have to look at education, behavioural change and planning controls to reduce emissions and encourage modal shift from personal car use to more sustainable forms of transport.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight – it will take time. We are using a multi-tool approach using a range of actions to bring about behavioural change.

The Crawley Growth Programme is investing in improving sustainable transport infrastructure including better connectivity at key transport interchanges like Three Bridges which will enable someone travelling from Brighton to take the train and connect to bus or walk or cycle to Manor Royal. In addition, connectivity enhancements at the major railway station of Crawley, Three Bridges and Gatwick will greatly facilitate commuter access to Manor Royal and the town centre via sustainable transport connections.”

Yes there have been some small indications that people are starting to make a difference. A few primary schools working in conjunction with Sustrans have managed to stop a few parents from driving their little ones in to school. But I did question the suggestion that it was making such a huge diffence that it warranted the embelished headline given in their recent press release.

And this is where it leads to the proposal of 10,000 new homes. Be under no illusion, the majority of them will be owned by someone with a car. This means more pollution pushed out and into the lungs of those who are already suffering here.

But we do need homes. There is huge demand and they must be built. The question is how can Crawley cope with such a huge new influx if it can’t cope with the levels it already has?

Now there has been a suggestion that the AQMA be extended across more of the town but how will this really help? All it is likely to do is to give more evidence to what we already know about the Nitrogen dioxide levels.

With everyone turning to electric vehicles in ten or so years time then a lot of this will be addressed but what about the present time?

One suggestion that has been banded around is the idea of spreading out new houses into areas that are no so built up as Crawley has become. It is certainly an idea worth consideration, particularly if areas proposed don’t have an AQMA in situ already. Just take a look at the huge open spaces around Horsham and further afield.

It was always going to be the case that people in Ifield would object to the plans for a mini town to be built next to them but when you look at the data being produced, questioned and reported on by the local authority itself then you do start to wonder what the thinking is other than a monetary one and once that idea starts to take over then you do question the ethics.

The public will get their chance to question the council about this proposed development but it’s not going to be what is asked, nor what the reponses are and to be honest not even what the final decision is that will be what to watch. It will be how whatever is decided is justfied and pollution will be a major factor in that.

But for now, protests continue and petitions will form as most of us will sit back and watch from afar, that is until we get a text alert when it gets a bit poisonous outside.

Education

“WOW!” audience reaction as Crawley School takes over The Capitol Horsham

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It’s school production season as Crawley’s Holy Trinity School take over the Capitol in Horsham (YES THEY ACTUALLY HAVE TAKEN OVER THE THEATRE!) with their production of The Wizard of Oz.

So we thought what better way to get a review than by sending the perfect audience, mother and son Tina and Reece, to go check it out and wow did they have fun!


From Reece’s and I’s arrival at the theatre the atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation and when we finally took our seats the excitement in the audience was immense. 

Suddenly the curtain rises and from the moment the first words of the young actress playing Dorothy were spoken she had captured our imagination and we were off on a journey. 

All the actors had so much energy, passion and belief in their characters and roles, which truly resonated throughout the auditorium and the audience.

At the interval Reece and I were lucky enough to meet some of the lead actors backstage and have a chat with them with Reece leading the questions:

Some of the cast who chatted to Reece and Tina

REECE: Was it hard acting it all Out?

DOROTHY: “It was hard at first when we started but as time went on and we learnt our places and lines it got easier, but we have so much fun”

REECE: How did you find putting on your costumes and make up?

COWARDLY LION: “Its a rush to put it on, my costume is double layered so extremely hard to get on. I also helped with some of the others make up as sometimes its easier when we do each others.”

REECE: How easy was it to learn your characters?

WHOLE CAST: “We had a brilliant teacher, Miss O’neil who did a really good job of casting the right people for the right parts and we were all a bit unsure at the time. But we gave it a try and we all really settled into and really fell in love with them.”

REECE: Were you scared or nervous about performing in front of lots of people you didnt know?

SCARECROW: “We were at first, but we’ve all got each others backs so if anything did go wrong we would cover for them and hopefully no-one would notice.”

TIN MAN: “It is nerve racking at the time but you believe in your character and the others you’re on stage with and weve spent so much time together we’ve become a family so we’ve all helped each other”

Reece and I also had the pleasure of meeting some “munchkins” who had come from another school and were very keen to be involved saying they’d also learnt a lot by doing workshops with the year 6’s and and since their rehearsals started early October every Monday-Tuesday and Wednesday they’d bonded as friends and loved every minute of their performance(s).

The second half of the show was just as great as the first and you really felt immersed in the story at every stage.

9-year-old Reece absolutely loved the show

Reece and I absolutely loved the show, in-fact wow, it was fantastic. It was put together with such professionalism and it was such a pleasure to experience a production by children and young adults bonding to create not just an evening of entertainment but a journey of friendship and long may they continue to do so. We are already looking forward to any future production they do.

Well done to everybody involved and thank you for having us .’


The show at The Captiol Theatre runs until this Sat 29th with shows at 7:30 each evening and a matinee at 2:30 on Saturday.

Tickets are available on the Capitol Theatre Website by clicking here and are £15 for adults or £10 for U16, students and OAP.

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