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No-deal Brexit could lead to air quality-related school closures, council warns

Air pollution could be so bad in the event of a no-deal Brexit due to congestion at Dover that Kent’s schools may need to consider ‘lockdown’ and not opening, the county’s council has warned.

In a guidance document sent to Kent schools, the council advised that the county may encounter increased traffic congestion if a formal deal isn’t struck between the UK and the European Union by 29 March, the date the UK is scheduled to leave.

School managers have therefore been warned to consider planning to close their doors if air quality deteriorates.

‘If there is no agreement on a final deal, then a likely scenario is that the UK will simply leave the EU with no formal agreement in place,’ the document reads.

‘Although there will likely be last minute fixes put in place to alleviate some of the challenges, the likelihood is that there will be a period of disruption to many areas of life in Kent.’

© Duncan Hill

The county of Kent is one of the UK’s main transport gateways as home to the major ferry port of Dover, the Eurotunnel and two Eurostar stations, as well as several motorways.

Kent County Council has therefore advised school staff that travel disruption could continue for several months, having knock-on effects on the education system.

Other considerations school managers have been asked to make relating in case of increased traffic include staff shortages, ‘additional security’ and road safety, as the council warned against the potential ‘impatience’ of drivers.

Kent County Council has stressed that the document is simply a precautionary measure so that schools can be as prepared as possible should any problems arise.

Ian Watts, area education officer at the council, said in a statement: ‘In respect of the comment on air quality, KCC acknowledge that if any schools are affected, the number is likely to be low.

‘However, as with all aspects of emergency planning, it is prudent to have awareness of the possibility of heavier traffic and the effect that it may have on the need to manage pupil and staff movement around the external school site in such circumstances.’

Last November the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) confirmed its plans to maintain the UK’s current air quality legislation laws after the UK leaves the EU.

The UK’s existing set of domestic laws surrounding air quality enact components of the Ambient Air Quality Directive, the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, and other pieces of EU legislation.

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