Our kids are being failed – people must be forced to stop driving

Parents call on Town Hall to come up with radical answers to air pollution

Friday, 4th February — By Charlotte Chambers

Clean Air parents

Lucy Facer, Helena Farstad and Rachael Swynnerton of Islington Clean Air Parents

DESPERATE parents stood before politicians on Tuesday and laid out their air pollution fears – warning the Town Hall that it needed to do more to protect against an invisible killer.

Calling for radical new ideas, members of the Islington Clean Air Parents group told councillors that while data shows pollution has been going down, it remains still dangerously high.

They warned that since September – when the World Health Organisation (WHO) “cut in half” safe levels of exposure – all schools in Islington are now in areas where the air is officially too toxic.

Clean Air member Lucy Facer told a council meeting: “We are very worried about the health of our children and we’re still not seeing enough change taking place.

“Two weeks ago we had very high levels of pollution – it couldn’t get more serious. It was 10/10 for pollution where the government issues a warning for people to stay indoors and not exercise outside.

“Our comment as parents is: Why aren’t we telling people not to drive? Why are we not telling people to reduce their bad behaviour?

She added: “We need to see that sort of change happening at a government level rather than looking at the people who are susceptible to the effects [of pollution and asking them] to reduce down what they’re doing.”

Health experts say polluted air can lead to reduced lung size, heart disease, strokes and dementia.

When the government warned people it was dangerous to go outside in parts of London one day last month, Ms Facer said her daughter’s school closed its playground and kept all its children away from outdoor games.

“I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad about that,” Ms Facer told the meeting, adding: “We feel failed by the government and local authorities who aren’t safeguarding our children.”

Campaigners had drawn up a wish list of radical ideas they presented to councillors.

These included:

• launching a borough-wide awareness campaign aimed at informing people about the harm pollution causes

• the removal of all parking spaces outside schools and replacing with greenery

• a guarantee of 40 per cent tree canopy in streets.

The group wants Islington to work to halve the amount of pollution from vehicles in the next three years.

Helena Farstad, another member of the group, said: “It is a social justice issue for the 40,500 children living in the borough. Car journeys start and end with a parking space. Let’s rebalance the space not just to serve the purpose of the private car, but also for other purposes be that greening or meeting [spaces].”

Another suggestion is for the council to draw up a ten minute walking zone around all schools so that even if parents did drive, they would have to park ten minutes away

Labour councillor Gary Heather told them they were “right to keep pressing the envelope” on the issue.

Labour councillor Tricia Clarke, chair of the environment committee, said their ideas would be “put forward” to Labour’s “manifesto process” ahead of May’s council elections.

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