Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey has been urged to help find solutions to traffic congestion around a South Yorkshire hospital which has left air pollution nudging dangerous levels.
Councillors have already suggested a park-and-ride arrangement as a means of reducing traffic around Barnsley Hospital, alongside the possibility of moving some administrative departments to unused offices near the town centre, but no progress has been made with those ideas.
Now they have had an offer from the Sheffield City Region for its Active Travel Commissioner, Dame Sarah Storey, to help with work on promoting active travel as an alternative to using cars.
Dame Sarah’s total of 14 gold medals makes her the most successful female British Paralympian of all time.
Barnsley councillor Phillip Lofts said: “We had an offer from Mayor Dan Jarvis’s office, for Dame Sarah to make an input to an active travel strategy. I have written back to say we would love to be on board with this. We have always said we would want to involve the Mayor’s office.”
Councillors representing the Old Town ward are particularly concerned about the impact of pollution on children attending primary schools in the area, with nitrous oxide levels now only one point below triggering an air quality action zone, on a scale of 40 points.
They also know the hospital lacks enough car parking space for staff and visitors, leading to residential roads in the area becoming clogged with vehicles.
It is hoped a forthcoming parking strategy for the town centre, currently being compiled by the council, will be stretched to cover the area around the hospital.
Coun Lofts said the hospital accounted for between a third and half of traffic in the area, but in some areas the council’s own staff were responsible for some street parking.
“I understand a parking strategy is being worked up for the town centre. The scope of that, we hope, will encompass the area around the hospital and will be beneficial to Old Town residents.
“In the meantime, we will be lobbying hard for that strategy to include Summer Lane and the area around the hospital,” he said.
Information about commuter journeys undertaken by the hospital’s 3,600 staff has already been obtained by councillors and Barnsley Council’s in-house highways staff are working to interpret that to establish the real-world impact they have.
Coun Lofts said he acknowledged some staff would struggle to get to work by public transport because shift patterns and bus timetables did not always match.