TRAFFIC pollution on West Devon’s minor roads is soaring to alarming levels, a council report has revealed.

The report, prepared in connection with a planning application for a business at Whiddon Down, near Okehampton, says levels of traffic emissions on ‘smaller’ roads have increased by 30 per cent in the past 17 years.

Traffic emissions were only part of the reason for the recommendation for refusal of the proposal, which was for a retail shop in open countryside.

But the report, prepared by Phil Baker, a planning officer on the joint local plan team for West Devon Borough, South Hams District and Plymouth City councils, said against a backdrop of a requirement for a radical reduction of greenhouse gases, ‘transport emissions in West Devon attributable to A roads has not dropped at all since 2005, and worse still, emissions on smaller roads have actually increased by 30 per cent since 2005.’

It adds: ‘Locating this proposal in such an unsuitable location is only going to compound what is already an alarming trajectory of emissions across the borough.’

A separate report on the proposal says from data collected since 2005, it was clear that rural travel and transport continued to contribute the most harmful pattern of emissions when compared against other sectors.

The report added that it was difficult to escape the conclusion that the proposal would not provide an environmentally-conscious business development that contributed to a low carbon economy.

Borough councillors have already committed themselves to reducing their carbon footprint to net zero by 2030 and increasing biodiversity on its own land by ten per cent by 2025.

They were also encouraging staff to work at home when they could to reduce travelling to the office.

Councillors, on Tuesday, were also considering loaning leisure company Fusion £300,000 to install solar panels to provide energy at the borough’s two leisure centres at Tavistock and Okehampton.

But their commitment to cutting emissions has been questioned by planning consultant Graham Parker, who said he found it strange that the authority would refuse permission for a single shop, yet allow development of housing in Tavistock’s Plymouth Road.

Former Tavistock town councillor Mr Parker has long been an opponent of the scheme amid claims it is depriving the town of badly-needed employment land.

He said: ‘West Devon’s planning officers and councillors are so concerned about emissions from vehicles on West Devon’s roads, that they refuse permission for a single shop near Okehampton.

‘I don’t see, however, how those very same officers and councillors give away employment land at Plymouth Road and tell the residents of Tavistock that it’s all right for them to have to drive to work to Totnes, Kingsbridge, Okehampton, Dartington, Salcombe and dozens of other places that involve as much as 100 km round daily commute.’