IT WAS good to read in the Echo (January 4) that NICE recommends that cyclists, walkers and public transport users be prioritised in future road building and improvements. If this becomes a reality we will all benefit from the improvements to our health and to the environment which will follow.

Unfortunately the Highways England scheme to increase the number of vehicles using the main route into Southampton from the east (from Bursledon roundabout to Six Dials) will damage the health of residents and the environment – a clear example of motor vehicles being prioritised over other road users.

Many of us would also like to see trees prioritised over motor vehicles, not least in recognition of their valuable role in absorbing the toxins these vehicles emit. I wrote to the council’s tree officer in 2018 asking for preservation orders to be put on the trees (including ancient oaks) on the north side of Bitterne Railway Bridge, the most polluted location on the route of the Highways England scheme. He replied that he couldn’t do this as the trees were not under any threat. I responded, pointing out that they were under threat from the proposed Highways England scheme.

He then said that, if this was the case, he couldn’t put preservation orders on the trees as “he could be accused of obstructing the scheme. What do we pay tree officers to do if not to find out which trees might be under threat from developers and do everything possible to protect these trees?

Highways England must give more than a passing nod to NICE’s recommendations, it should withdraw any proposals which prioritise motor vehicles over other road users (probably all of them) and come up with new plans which do what NICE says they should. We know that this is possible as we have the Dutch model as an example of how a small, densely populated, industrialised and economically successful country can function with a transport hierarchy which puts people at the top and motor vehicles at the bottom. No surprise that the Dutch are among the happiest, healthiest (and slimmest!) people in Europe.

Hopefully Southampton’s planners will in future ensure the city’s development plans accord with the NICE recommendations.

We could look forward to an attractive, healthy city with clean air, a city which values its heritage and its environment – a city designed around people, not the motor car.

Lindsi Bluemel

Bitterne Park