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“Give me some air”!

In the last few days – it’s been announced that a pilot section of the M1 in the South Yorkshire region will have 60mph speed limits placed on it “for some considerable period of time” in order to “improve the quality of the air”.  Thirty years ago – as an undergraduate – I travelled that section of the M1 regularly in the periodic commutes between university and home. All I remember of most of those drives was hanging onto the steering wheel of my ageing VW for grim death as howling cross winds blew my wretched satanic car exhaust smoke sideways across the landscape with such force it probably would have made it to the North Sea before touching down!

I have to ask – who identifies these scientific ‘results’?  Is this the same Worksop and Rotherham that used to be home to many of the National Coal boards mines (before the Thatcher government axed them into oblivion)?  If I’m not wrong – a company called Rexco had a plant nearby there in those days you could clearly smell for miles around producing coke (that’s a form of solid fuel – and not the soft drink ‘marketed’ by Santa – for our younger readers).

Am I also correct in observing that just about every car in Britain back then ran on petrol containing lead additives? Furthermore – that those same cars regularly did less than 30 miles to the gallon?

Is it our fault that Dr Richard Beeching recommended hacking apart over a third of our ‘unviable’ railway network in the early 1960’s? Is it our fault that Margaret Thatcher’s government took considerable ‘contributions’ from construction companies in the 1980’s so they could build new roads?

Britain invented the railways.  Britain chose to rip up many of them and follow the Americans in falling head over heels in love with the car.  Virtually everywhere else in Europe – they gleefully took our invention and developed railway networks that today shame us. If you are looking for quite possibly the worst strategic post war mistake in this country – look no further.

Now we are being ordered to drive at a snail’s pace on the Queens highways.  Should I care? Most of the time I drive an ancient Land Rover that rarely gets driven above 60mph. It’s been modified to hell and back with every environmental add-on that I could muster – and I can smugly announce I have never bought a new car of my own – the manufacture of which is the most carbon-producing activity of the lot!

Except I’m not smug about this at all. My sense is – it’s the quite possibly the least joined-up, strategically flawed nonsense I’ve heard in half a century.  Thousands of businesses up and down the country (shortly including mine) will be using new, clean, relatively crash-safe, fuel-efficient vehicles and need to get people, skills and materials from A to B at speeds commensurate with the prevailing traffic conditions.

If targets for clean air need to be met (something I 100% fully support) – unless someone can convince me otherwise – I believe there is a HUGE list of better alternatives – all of which disrupt businesses a great deal less – and provide a far more pleasant and effective environment for human beings in all manner of situations.

The last word perhaps should also go to Dr Victoria Henshaw – of the University of Sheffield – who I first made contact with after hearing her speak on BBC Radio 4 about the demise of ‘regional smells’ that gave different environments across Britain their identity. Is making people drive at 60mph really going make a huge environmental impact, or is it just further sanitising our landscape and another attempt to remind us nanny knows best – and stinging motorists with another stealth fine into the process?

                                                                                    Richard J. Francis

                                                                                    Environmental Tuner

                                                                                    www.sensescape.CO

Richard has worked in industry, commerce and technology for over twenty years – and has learned the difference between good and bad working environments.  He also has a lifetime interest in horticulture and pioneering plants into places. He specialises in producing Sensescapes, which integrate plant walls, soundscapes, and imagery that reflect the purpose of an environment and improve the results generated out of it.

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