Motor traffic is a
major source of environmental pollution and
Road building damages the environment in its land take and
destruction of habitats, and also in its voracious use of
The main polluting emissions from motor vehicles are not
falling fast enough to ensure that statutory air quality
standards for particles, nitrogen oxides and ozone are met by
the Government's target date of 2005.
Nitrogen dioxide, low-level ozone and particulates are
associated with health problems, particularly respiratory
Pollution monitoring is carried out by local authorities. But
in practice little is done to take action when pollution levels
exceed health guidelines. In the UK there are over 100 streets
where pollution has recently exceeded EC guidelines. And these
are by no means only in the large cities, but in historic cities
like Bath and Cambridge which were simply not built to withstand
the levels of traffic they now experience.
Roads occupy some 3.3% of the UK's green and pleasant land.
Recent public and private investment in roadbuilding has
increasingly been moving away from big road schemes such as
motorways and bypasses and into the roads infrastructure to
support new housing developments.
With the government anticipating an additional 4.4 million
houses to meet demand over the next few years, every effort
needs to be made to minimise the road infrastructure demands.
Currently the preference in government and planning circles
is for "urban densification". While this could reduce
the total land take in rural areas, it would increase pressures
on urban road networks. Also, the location of new towns away
from railway stations condemns them to be car dependent, which
must run counter to the overall aims of the government. Finally
major road-building schemes are planned, and the Highways Agency
has identified 60 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as
being under threat from road development schemes.
In a recent survey the Council for the Protection of Rural
England found that there are now very few places in England not
affected by noise pollution, mainly caused by traffic. It is not
just proximity to major roads that causes this constant backdrop
of noise, but Rural England's almost total dependency on cars
for access to work and services.