Every year thousands of people in the UK die from air pollution. The quality of our air is affected by how we plan our towns and cities. Too much traffic and too much queuing means we all breath in air pollution and suffer the consequences.
We know Ipswich has terrible traffic congestion. Every day we can see thousands of people sitting in their cars queuing to get into work – time that could be so much better spent on a hundred different other activities.
The answer isn’t more roads, it reducing the need to have all this traffic.
We have communities around Ipswich – Chantry, Nacton, Whitehouse and so on – then in the middle we have shops and offices. Why? We need to plan things differently. We need more people living in the town centre – that way they won’t need to drive there, they will already be there, when the want go to work or to the shops they will walk out of their door and be a few minutes walk from where they need to be.
Similarly we need more shops and offices within our communities so it is easy for us to walk or cycle to them, not always have to take the car on long journeys.
We need office hubs so people who work further afield don’t need to always go into the office but have high quality facilities close to home where they can work productively. Instead of spending an hour getting to work they can spend minutes.
Less traffic would mean less pollution and less congestion. Having more local shops and offices means we revitalise our communities. We would encourage more local cafes, craft centres, arts centres, sports facilities, so the things people want aren’t all miles away but close to where they live.
At the moment we have huge areas where people live, then miles away we have large areas where they work and shop. Then we wonder why there is so much congestion when people all jump in their cars to travel between these two areas.
We need to integrate our communities so there is less need to travel, and many more people can just walk or cycle to where they need to go.
And there’s another benefit. Go down pretty much any residential street in Ipswich and you will find it choc-a-bloc with cars – many families have two or three cars – with more older children living at home it isn’t unknown for a family to have four cars to try to park.
If we can reduce the amount of travelling we all have to do, we will have less need for all these cars and the blocked streets problem will be reduced as well.
Now you are going to say this isn’t going to happen overnight and what is it going to cost. Is it realistic?
Well, even if we can reduce the problem a little – say 10% – the effect will be noticable. Studies in traffic congestion show that just easing the congestion by 10% has a big effect on the amount of movement that gets opened up.
And we need to have a plan. We need to know what sort of a town we want to create. At the moment the town seems to have no real vision for what an Ipswich of the future will look like. It wastes money on white elephants and fancy town squares that cost millions but aren’t going to make a measurable difference to the people of the town.
If we know what we want, then when the money becomes available we can put it towards making the future happen. If we don’t know what we want then any money will be wasted on irrelevant nonsense.
If we can create revitalised local communities around Ipswich then we can look at creating local renewable power for our homes, community-owned power that reduces our energy bills and helps us all get control back into the places where we live. We can start to take local ownership of our communities, decide what we all want to make our town a better place to live and have real hope that there is a way forward to a resiliant, sustainable, healthy and vibrant Ipswich.