A community approach to air quality in Guilford

A local online debate in Guildford, Surrey has led to a renewed focus on air quality.

More than a hundred people took part in an online debate last week to discuss the future of Guildford town centre and all agreed that they must tackle the borough’s air quality ‘together.’

The webinar is part of a programme of events to hear from the community about what they want the future of Guildford to be. The programme includes workshops, pop-up town centre stalls, focus groups, telephone polling and digital campaigns. 

The latest webinar explored how we can make sure the plan for Guildford is sustainable. Experts were on hand to answer questions from the public on everything from the social, environmental and economic impacts of the plan to topics such as transportation, climate change and air quality.

Lead Councillor for Regeneration, Cllr John Rigg said: “We discussed one of the big problems: how we reduce pollution and improve air quality. How can we get people out of their cars and using other greener forms of transport? We talked about the need for segregated cycle lanes and encouraging people to use facilities already available like park and ride. It won’t happen overnight, and everyone has a part to play. If we all work together – residents, businesses, and all public sector bodies – we can make it happen.”

Architect David Leonard gave a presentation and highlighted the concept of the 15-minute neighbourhood which provides residents access to most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home.

Air quality expert Professor Prashant Kumar from the University of Surrey explained the findings of his research while Justine Fuller, Head of Environment and Regulatory Services at Guildford Borough Council explained how sustainability is a key driver for all council policy.

Shaping Guildford’s Future aims to breathe new life into the centre by opening up the riverside, improving air quality, introducing more alternative, sustainable and affordable transport as well as making Guildford a more attractive and healthier place to live, work and visit. 

Councillor Cait Taylor, Lead Cllr for Climate Change and Air Quality, said: “Our plan to improve areas of the town centre includes very much needed environmental changes such as tackling our traffic issues, flooding, and allowing more people to walk and cycle safely in the town. As a local authority, we have opportunities to make what we do greener and to bring together local groups and individuals who are uniquely placed to make a difference. In 2019 we declared a climate emergency and published an action plan in July 2020. The net greenhouse gas emissions from our activities fell by over 21% between 2016-17 and 2019-20. The total fell from 10,998 tonnes in 2016-17 to 8,586 tonnes in 2019-20. We are committed to becoming a net-zero carbon borough by 2030 and we will continue to find more ways to reduce our impact on this precious planet. 

“Our town centre plans will make a huge difference, making our town more sustainable for everyone in the future. Please tell us what you think. Watch the recording to find out more and have your say.”

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