Two public health experts joined with representatives of Warwick District Council in calling on local people to work alongside them in focus groups aimed at encouraging more residents to get out of their cars for local journeys.
Nicola Wright, the county’s consultant on wider health determinants, talked of existing schemes such as mobile phone “apps” for car sharing, the need for improved cycleways and crossing facilities plus Park and Rides or “strides” from the new suburbs.
She also suggested people might volunteer one day a month to chaperone schoolchildren’s “walking buses”.
Along with Dr Nadia Inglis, she presented charts indicating the huge health risks from smoking while alligning the affect of poor air quality alongside similar risks from obesity and binge drinking.
But while the mortality rate shot up for smokers, James Mackay, chairman of the Warwick Society, pointed out that only 20 per cent of the population of Leamington and Warwick smoked.
By contrast all living in town and city centres had no choice but to breath the air.
Former district councillor Linda Bromley also wanted to know why so few public health objections had been raised to new homes in the Local Plan.
Mrs Bromley, who lost her seat last week, said: “I have sat on the planning committee and never heard any objections about air quality.
“We all know traffic schemes like Park and Ride are virtually unworkable. It can take an hour and ten minutes to get from Warwick to Coventry by bus as well as being very expensive.”
On testing, district council environmental health officer Graeme Helm said: “No sites in Leamington are as bad as the centre of Warwick.”
But all have come down and are below the national target of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre - although Tachbrook Road in Leamington is 39.6.
He said objections had not been made to recent housing applications because the planners negotiated with the district and offered mitigating factors in advance.
The trouble is that subsidised bus journeys may only last for five years and the cash could run out by the time a new estate is completely finished and occupied.
After the meeting, Mr Mackay said: “This is a debate the town needs. The presentation confirmed traffic pollution is a threat to residents’ health, as well as to everyone who uses the streets of Warwick town centre and Leamington Old Town. Many at the meeting were doubtful about the county’s prescription for dealing with the problem, but look forward to working with both councils to improve on it. It is very clear that people and too much traffic cannot co-exists easily in old town centres, and we need together to tackle the root cause of the danger.”