Council proposal threatens school fight for cleaner air
A proposal to close roads in Stoke Newington could send hundreds more cars past two local primary schools per day.
As staff and parents at William Patten Primary School grapple with already worrying levels of pollution, they’re now facing the threat of even more dangerous emissions if a proposal involving the closure of Barbauld Road or Walford Road goes ahead.
Stating that the proposal could lead to a 5% increase in traffic eastbound on Church Street and a 7% westbound, Cllr Feryal Demirci , Cabinet Member for Traffic at Hackney Council, said: “This should not result in any appreciable worsening of air quality outside the school.”
According to the Council’s estimate that’s 564 extra cars passing the school within 24 hours and some critics fear, because the school is near the junction, those additional cars will often be idling at the traffic lights causing even more pollution.
Jenna Fansa, who runs StokeyParents, linking families in the area, said: “Firstly those estimates by the Council seem incredibly conservative – I fear the numbers would be much greater. But for the Council to claim that an extra 564 extra cars passing the gates wouldn’t cause worse pollution for our schoolchildren is both laughable and incredibly alarming.
“We believe the Council should be actively trying to reduce traffic and pollution outside our school playgrounds and to be doing something, which by their own admission, will actively increase traffic. is scandalous.
“I believe that in knowingly pushing forward schemes which will create more pollution outside two primary schools (places children have to be by law), Hackney Council are failing in their duty of care to protect our children from harmful emissions.”
Parents at St Mary's Primary School have also expressed their concerns about the proposals.
Sally Newsom, a parent at William Patten, added: “The Mayor of London has flagged improving air quality for school children as a major priority – Hackney Council’s proposals go completely against that.” And she feared the road closures would also create more traffic for children walking to school via the back streets.
William Patten Primary School was identified by the Mayor of London as one of the top 50 polluted school in London. The school is campaigning to have a bus stop moved to reduce emissions outside the playground and has fundraised for a green screen (a screen of plants) which will be placed along its Church Street boundary.
One study claims that children at school in high-pollution areas are slower to develop cognitively - attentiveness, memory and brain development all seem to be affected.
Volunteers at the school have been carrying out their own monitoring of nitrogen dioxide, which have recorded levels above those considered safe by the World Health Organisation. To sign their petition to move the bus stop visit: http://you.38degrees.org/petitions/move-the-bus-stop
Traders in Stoke Newington are also rallying to oppose the road closures – they say pollution on the street is often so bad they have to close their doors and that the road already gets congested, with anger among motorists trying to pass one another.
Among the businesses objecting to both the Council’s proposals are Earlybird Cards, N16 Tots, Shine, Metal Crumble, Spence Bakery, Andi’s, The Last Crumb, N16 Flowers, Nook, Kitchen Provisions, Askew Eyewear, The Green Room Café and Kontact hair salon and the Londesbough Pub.
Some opponents believe the Council’s proposal will cause more traffic down side streets like Defoe, Kersley, Kynaston, Nevill, Ayrsome, Oldfield, Harcombe, Dumont, Marton and Dynevor Roads as motorists wishing to travel to the A10 from Church Street will turn right down these streets to avoid congestion, miss out the traffic lights and, if travelling southbound, to avoid the one-way system.
Jenna added: “For the residents on Walford Road the current situation of congestion that has been caused by earlier road closures is unbearable. We want to work with the Council to come up with a solution that doesn’t simply push the problem to other streets and which genuinely improves cycle routes and reduces pollution.”
Those opposing the closures are calling on the Council to go back to the drawing board and further explore other options to tackle congestion in Walford and Brighton Roads (such as creating a one-way loop with traffic calming measures to prevent cars having to reverse to let each other pass).
Defending the proposals, Cllr Demirci, said: “We take air quality extremely seriously and want to do everything we can to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air. We monitor the air quality around schools and work with them to reduce the impact of air pollution, for example by banning vehicles outside schools at pick up and drop off times to discourage parents from driving their children to school.
"The Council does not anticipate that either proposal would create new “rat runs” and the Council will undertake post-scheme monitoring to confirm this.
"Traffic studies also show that with this type of scheme there is reduction in the displaced traffic of about 10%. It would be expected that a number of residents in the area would also start to make more sustainable transport decisions, to walk or cycle, which would reduce traffic further."
To view the Council’s consultation visit https://consultation.hackney.gov.uk/streetscene/walford-road-area-environmental-improvements/
The deadline to respond is January 26th and a public meeting takes place on Monday June 15th at 6pm in St Paul’s Church.