Employers and councils must take a share of the blame for Devizes’ problems in congestion and air pollution, environment expert Professor John Whitelegg will tell a meeting in the town next week.

Professor Whitelegg, of the Stockholm Environment Institute of the University of York, is to address a public meeting of Devizes Passengers at the Corn Exchange on February 20 from 7.30pm. Entry is free.

He told the Gazette that Devizes needs protecting to ensure the next generation inherits its charm and attractiveness.

He said: “Devizes is an attractive market town with a high quality of life and a strong sense of place identity. It is not a clone town or a boring suburban settlement that is sadly so common in 21st century England.

“We have to protect what we have, and improve those things that are not up to scratch. A really good example of this is air quality. The situation in Devizes is not good. The whole town centre is now an Air Quality Management Area.

“Another area of public policy failure is bus service provision and integration. This is a national as well as a local problem but bus services in and around Devizes fall far short of the frequency and service quality required to provide an attractive alternative to the car.

“It is normal in many other countries for a town the size of Devizes to have a comprehensive network of bus services starting at 5am going on to 11pm from Monday to Saturday at a 20-30 minute frequency and lower frequency on Sundays and public holidays.

“Walking and cycling facilities in Devizes are also in urgent need of improvement. This is not just a transport matter. So-called ‘active travel’ can make a significant contribution to improving health, reducing obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

“There needs to be a system-wide, holistic view linking shopping centres, resid- ential areas, employment areas, medical facilities, schools and bus stops protected by a default speed limit of 20mph. It is not acceptable to have 30mph speed limits when we know that 20mph reduces death, serious injury, disability and distress.

“The last 20 years have seen remarkable success stories through travel plans to increase alternatives to cars. If employers in Devizes do not have robust travel plans in place that meet British Standardisation Institution recommendations, it is the residents of Devizes who will suffer the consequences.”