New £44M ‘eco’ road sent even MORE HGVs thundering past our homes: Fury as locals breathing in some of the most toxic air in the UK are engulfed in more diesel fumes thanks to ‘green’ bypass
- EXCLUSIVE: Council’s green road scheme made fumes worse for some locals
- Woodside Link road opened in 2017 to fanfare in Dunstable, Bedfordshire
- Idea was to reduce traffic in polluted area by diverted trucks away from villages
- But locals were kept in the dark about full scale of the project during plan stage
Central Bedfordshire Council did not tell people living on a street with some of the highest recordings of deadly toxic pollutants in Britain that a new £44million eco link road would cause even more diesel-guzzling lorries to be funnelled down their road.
The Woodside Link road opened in April 2017 to much fanfare in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, and was billed to bring cleaner air to the town centre and surrounding areas which had been declared an ‘air quality management area’ (AQMA) in 2005.
The aim of the dual carriageway was to reduce traffic in heavy polluted area by ‘detrunking’ the A5 and taking HGVs away from villages as they trundle onto the M1.
But council documents – seen by MailOnline – which detail heavy lorries would be shifted onto half the AQMA in Luton Road were not shown to residents before the green road was built. Incredibly, they were told instead that traffic would be reduced down the polluted road.
The area’s MP Andrew Selous has muscled in on the row and confirmed in the Commons in June the local authority admitted the number of HGVs had likely increased.
Furious homeowners say lorries are charging down the pothole plagued road ‘day and night’ emitting toxic fumes and leaving their windows caked in dirt.
Locals say 7.5 tonne weight limits imposed on the adjacent streets mean lorries coming off the M1 have been pushed onto their road in order to get to the Woodside Industrial Estate to drop off and pick up deliveries from businesses which include DPD, and Randox – the health company which was a major provider of Covid tests.
The £44million Woodside Link ‘eco’ road has been blamed for funnelling more diesel-guzzling lorries down one of UK’s worst polluted streets in Luton Road, Dunstable
Locals say 7.5 tonne weight limits imposed on the adjacent streets mean lorries coming off the M1 have been pushed onto their road
Furious homeowners say lorries are charging down the pothole plagued road ‘day and night’ emitting toxic fumes and leaving their windows caked in dirt
Some houses are engulfed in some of the highest toxic fumes in the UK, according to the latest Imperial College London data in 2022, which can increase the risk of cancer, lung problems, and a disease-related death.
A business case document for the link road was compiled by engineering company Aecom in 2014 and forecasted an increase in traffic as HGVs re-route along Luton Road, but it never formed part of the bundle of information during the consultation period.
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Two years later, a traffic management meeting detailed proposals to ban lorries weighing more than 7.5 tonnes down neighbouring streets.
Worried residents feared Luton Road would be turned in a ‘rat run’ but the council’s highways department pushed back on the concerns and even vowed the heavy traffic would reduce.
Dave Porter, 51, has lived in his mid-terrace home for 22 years and wants the council to impose a weight limit along the road.
He said: ‘Luton Road is supposed to be an Air Quality Management Area, but we have very high pollution.
‘When permission was given for the Link Road one of the key objectives was to reduce the heavy traffic.’
The local authority was awarded £5million from the Department for Transport to go towards the cost of building the 2.4km road.
But questions have been raised about the council’s motives to build the link road with a developer behind a nearby 5,000 housing estate promising to hand over almost a third of the cost to build the £150million A5/M1 northern bypass if it was built.
Residents in Luton Road told MailOnline that more HGVs than ever are driving past their homes in order to get to junction 11 on the M1 rather than the new junction 11a.
The map above shows the traffic flow before the A5/M1 bypass and Woodside Link Road was built showing it flowing through Dunstable high street and Luton Road
When the bypass and eco road opened in 2017, HGVs were funnelled onto Luton Road with weight limits to the west and south being blamed
Residents in Luton Road told MailOnline that more HGVs than ever are driving past their homes in order to get to junction 11 on the M1 rather than the new junction 11a
Some houses are engulfed in some of the highest toxic fumes in the UK, according to the latest Imperial College London data in 2022, which can increase the risk of cancer , lung problems, and a disease-related death
Dave Porter, 51, has lived in his mid-terraced home for 22 years and wants the council to impose a weight limit down Luton Road
Weight limits are in place in areas around the town centre but residents say all this has done has pushed traffic down onto Luton Road
Mother-of-two Nikita Patel, 43, (left) claims her home is full of dust. ‘It is not good. We don’t have fresh air’ and Paul Bavister, (right) a 64 year old swimming instructor, has lived on the road four years and says the traffic has got worse
Mr Porter added: ‘What happened was when the road opened it redistributed HGV traffic. All the traffic was funnelled along this road. We were supposed to be beneficiaries, but we are worse off.’
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The pest controller, said he had to go through the ULEZ zone in London a couple of weeks ago and claimed ‘the air there was cleaner than here’.
One woman, who has lived in the road for 30 years, said ‘lorries are going past day and night. The road is broken up and they don’t mend it.’
Paul Bavister, a 64 year old swimming instructor, said: ‘I have lived here for four years and the road has got worse.
‘The Sat Navs will direct drivers along here, not to junction 11a. I would sign anything to stop it.
‘It is bad for safety as well as pollution. When you are in charge of a big lorry you shouldn’t be speeding along here.’
Mother-of-two Ciara Kain, 34, has triple-glazing on the windows to her home but still fears the worst about the health of her children.
The mental health trust who has lived in the road for 10 years said: ‘The traffic has got worse. The lorries are bad. They are coming down from Woodside to get to the motorway.
‘I read an article about the pollution. My eldest has asthma like her dad. The road can’t help.’
The road is in a ‘terrible state’ due to potholes and when the lorries hit them ‘it thunders and houses shake’
Hope Dike, a 66-year-old retired room assistant, said: ‘I have been here eight years and it has got worse with the noise and pollution. I support anything that gets the lorries away’
Most of the issues are being caused by HGVs making their way to the Woodside Industrial Estate to pick up and drop off deliveries
Mother-of-two Ciara Kain, 34, has triple glazing on the windows for her home but still fears for the health of her children
A post-opening report by the council five years after the road was opened told the Department for Transport all of its objectives had been met. But it bizarrely had no traffic studies conducted for Luton Road
According to addresspollution.org – a site which details air pollution by postcode by using Imperial College London data – some homes are among the worst polluted in the UK
Nikita Patel, 43, has two children aged 8 and 10, said: ‘It is not good. We don’t have fresh air and the houses are full of dust because of what comes up off the road.’
Retired driver Ed Solly, 78, bought his first home in the street 47 years ago and has lived there ever since.
‘It is disgusting now,’ he said. ‘The road is breaking up. When the lorries go past at night some of the gravel hits the windows.
‘The air pollution is so bad I can’t have my bedroom windows open at night even in the hot weather because of the smell.
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‘Amazon are up on the Woodside Estate and their lorries are going past all the time.
‘The council spent £44 million on a bypass and they are not using it. The new road was supposed to send the traffic up to 11a on the M1.’
Hope Dike, a 66-year-old retired room assistant, said: ‘I have been here eight years and it has got worse with the noise and pollution. I support anything that gets the lorries away.’
Amanda Lees, 58, who worked in finance said: ‘We get lorries going up and down all the time and our window sills are full of dirt. We are constantly washing them.
‘I campaigned for a weight restriction that would stop the lorries and we thought that was going to happen, but it hasn’t.’
She and her 64-year-old husband Delvan have lived on the road for around 20 years.
Delvan, who also worked in finance, said: ‘The air around here was supposed to improve when they built the bypass. It was supposed to lead the traffic away. That is how the council got the grant money, but it didn’t happen that way.
‘There are more domestic vehicles using this road because of new developments and the lorries don’t use junction 11A as they should.
‘The road is in a terrible state. When the lorries hit the potholes it thunders and your house shakes.’
A post-opening report by the council five years after the road was opened told the Department for Transport all of its objectives had been met.
But it bizarrely had no traffic studies conducted for Luton Road, although it showed neighbouring Boscombe Road towards the industrial estate had seen an 18 per cent increase.
Nearby Church Street and Poynters Road, where weight limits were imposed, recorded a 22.3 per cent and 29.6 per cent decrease in traffic.
Amanda Lees, 58, and her 64-year-old husband Devlan and constantly washing their windows as the sills are full of dirt due to ‘lorries going up and down all the time’
Ed Solly, 78, is Luton Road resident of 47 years and says it is ‘disgusting now’ with gravel hitting the windows sometimes when the lorries drive past
Mr Selous told the Commons in June a large number of people on Luton Road ‘identified as the key beneficiaries of the Woodside Link road’ are now worse off.
‘What the public were told was very clear and stated in multiple documents – fewer HGVs on Luton Road as a result of the Woodside Link – and there it was in black and white,’ he said.
‘So it appears that Luton Road residents were not given the full facts in the run-up to the decision to build the Woodside Link, which received £5million of central Government funding.’
He called for a ‘proper post-evaluation report’ and to ‘see what we can do to put it right’.
Mr Selous added: ‘More HGVs belching out diesel fumes when stopping and starting at lights means worse air quality.
‘We will need to measure where I looked before and after, but it must have got worse: more HGVs means the air quality gets worse if someone’s front door is next to a busy road such as that. That is where I think the disappointment and the anger is.’
Dunstable town centre and Luton Road was declared an AQA in 2005, but Central Bedfordshire Council has staggeringly failed to update its action plan for 17 years. It is meant to be refreshed every five years.
There are fears the levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles known as fine particulate which are so small they pass through the lungs into the bloodstream – have increased
Readings taken by the council in one area of the road show the levels of nitrogen oxide has reduced from 50.8µg/m3 in 2017 to 33.9µg/m3 in 2021, albeit they are still higher than World Health Organisation standards of 10 µg/m3. The UK limit is 40 µg/m3.
However, there are fears the levels of PM2.5 – tiny particles known as fine particulate which are so small they pass through the lungs into the bloodstream – have increased.
According to addresspollution.org – a site which details air pollution by postcode by using Imperial College London data last updated in April 2022 – some homes in Luton Road are among the worst polluted in the UK.
The annual average PM2.5 level at one home was 11.32mcg/m3, more than double the WHO limit of 5mcg/m3.
Tory MP Trudy Harrison – the parliamentary under secretary of state in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – has written a strongly worded letter to the local authority’s chief executive Marcel Coiffait.
In it, she raises concerns about the supposed increased traffic in Luton Road and its outdated action plan.
In the letter – seen by MailOnline – she writes: ‘Although Luton Road is showing as compliant with Air Quality Objectives for NO2, should an increase in HGV movements along this road be demonstrated, there may be concerns about exposure to elevated levels of PM2.5.’
Lands Improvement Holdings – behind the new 5,000 housing estate in nearby Houghton Regis – wrote a letter in 2013 in support of the council’s successful bid for a £5million government grant.
The developers promised to donate £45million towards the £150million costs of building the A5/M1 northern bypass on the proviso the Woodside Link road was built.
A Central Bedfordshire Councilspokesperson said: ‘Luton Road is a major trunk road coming off the M1to an industrial estate. The road is a dual carriageway with a hugedistribution warehouse close by and a large supermarket and major hospital onit, all of which require HGV access. The nature of the road means it willalways be a busy road and have some HGV traffic.
‘We built the Woodside Link Road to reduce local congestion, air pollutionand noise, taking HGV traffic away from the town centre and Luton Road. We have always been transparent about the benefits and impact of the newroad.
“Our latest data shows that HGV traffic makes up less than 3.5% of alltraffic on Luton Road. Nitrogen Dioxide levels have reduced significantly andare below national targets in Luton road and the town centre.’
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