Hackney Council is being urged to scrap a controversial road closure plan after admitting they underestimated the likely impact on Stoke Newington Church Street.
Despite claiming publicly and in its consultation that closing Walford, Beatty, Brighton or Barbauld Roads would “at worst” displace an extra 564 vehicles to Church Street, Council officers have now come up with new data, which reveals the figure could be 2,080 extra vehicles (which equates to a 21.8% increase).
Opponents fear that in attempting to create a more pleasant environment on the streets they wish to close, the Council will be increasing pollution and risking pedestrian safety on other roads, including Church Street where hundreds of children walk to school each day.
Church Street trader Heidi Early of Earlybird Cards said: “We’re horrified that senior officials have got it so badly wrong. If traders and residents had been told the true impact for Church Street when the Council consulted in January, I imagine opposition would have been far higher. Church Street isn’t equipped to deal with the extra traffic these closures would generate, the pavements are very narrow in places which means it’s already hazardous to pedestrians, at times congestion is terrible and pollution is so bad that some days you can taste it.”
Concerns have also been expressed that some of the roads where the traffic will be diverted to are already over the legal limit for pollution, while the roads the Council wishes to close are well below the legal limit.
A spokesperson for the CleanAir4Schools group, which includes parents from St Mary’s and William Patten Primary, added: “Hackney Council admits pollution levels breach EU limits at St Mary’s and their pollution officer and air quality consultants for the Mayor of London suggest closing a section of William Patten’s playground. For Hackney to knowingly worsen this already harmful situation is completely immoral.”
Local resident Matt Petzny added: “Given the Council didn’t fully understand the impact of its proposals, I hope they will now do the right thing, scrap these road closures and come up with properly considered plans that make the whole area safer and more pleasant for pedestrians – Church Street included!”
A Spokesperson for Hackney Council accepted traffic flow figures are higher than those released during the consultation and said this was due to "different traffic assumptions being made." They described the closures as: "part of wider changes aimed at creating an environment that will encourage more walking and cycling and improve air quality."
And they said they expected the final traffic flow assumptions to be reduced once traffic evaporation (using alternative routes), traffic reduction (using alternate means of transport) and local journeys unaffected by the closures had been taken into account.
But a Spokesperson for the CleanAir4Schools group added: “Sadly, ‘evaporation’ of traffic will not change substantially the overall figures for Church St. During discussions with the Clean Air for Schools group the Council agreed on testing a case with 0% of evaporation of traffic that currently uses the cut through, alongside 5% and a best-case scenario of 15%. That still equates to an overall traffic increase for Church Street of between 18.5 and 21.8%.”
Hackney Council said a more in-depth assessment would be carried out to assess the impact the higher predicted traffic flows would have on air quality. And they said a decision about the closures hasn't yet been reached.
Tom Knowles, of the CleanAir4Schools campaign group, said: “In light of this new data, Cllr Feryal Demirci’s claim that the road closures ‘should not result in any ‘appreciable worsening in air quality’ outside William Patten seems absurd.”
Traders have launched a petition against the road closures. To sign visit: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-to-road-closures-that-increase-traffic-on-church-st