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'Outrageous incompetence' - Dartford Crossing pollution levels went unreported due to government error

PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:54 07 March 2017

The Dartford Crossing was classed as a 'rural' road

The Dartford Crossing was classed as a 'rural' road

Archant

Does this look like a rural road to you?

A mistake which led to pollution levels at the Dartford Crossing going unreported to the European Union has been branded as ‘outrageous incompetence’.

Pollution levels were not reported to the EU by the government, because it had been classed as a ‘rural road’.

According to the BBC, the A282, which includes both the crossing and the QEII Bridge, was excluded from government air quality assessments, meaning nitrogen levels around the crossing were never reported to the EU.

“The misclassification is, at best, outrageous incompetence, at worst, a dangerous attempt to avoid taking action on a deadly air pollution crisis that unnecessarily claims the lives of more than 700 people in Kent,” said Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the south east.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says it told the Department for Transport about the error in January last year.

The road is now classed as urban, and will be included in future assessments.

Adds Mr Taylor: “The omission means illegal levels of air pollution from a crossing that carries 50 million vehicles every year have not been reported to the European Commission; the only political body that is actually taking action and attempting to hold the UK government to account for its air quality failures.”

Dartford council had been pursuing the mistake with Defra since it published its 2015 air quality report, according to the council’s cabinet member for transport, Keith Kelly.

Cllr Kelly rubbished suggestions of a conspiracy to conceal the figures.

“We were as surprised as anyone, Defra only confirmed the error to us three weeks ago,” he said.

“People have asked me if there is a conspiracy, I don’t think so. I think there was confusion getting the A282 and the M25 mixed up.

“The next step is to ensure the new figures from the next air quality report are accurate.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are firmly committed to improving the UK’s air quality and cutting harmful emissions.

“That’s why we have committed more than £2billion since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles, support greener transport schemes and set out how we will improve air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones.

“In addition, in the Autumn Statement, we announced a further £290m to support electric vehicles, low emission buses and taxis, and alternative fuels.

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