Pollution in Church Street
"It can never be the right decision to close roads if the knock-on effect will be to increase pollution at schools, when there are other options that would have a lesser impact on child health."
Lucy Harbor, air quality expert.
"The data shows that traffic pollution stops children’s lungs growing properly"
Ian Mudway, a respiratory toxicologist at King’s College London
How pollution is impacting locals
Pollution in Albion Road, Stoke Newington Church Street and Crossways already breaches EU limits.
That means the air thousands of residents, schoolchildren, businesses and visitors breathe is harmful.
The legally-accepted limit for a school is 40 micrograms per cubic metre. A year's monitoring shows the annual average NO2 near the Church St gate of William Patten is 48 micrograms per cubic metre. Outside Grasmere Primary on road that figure is 47.
In an email to local website StokeyParents on 25th January 2018, Hackney Council suggested it might be necessary to close part of the playground at William Patten 'as a precaution.' The Council spokesperson said:
“Based on the monitoring obtained so far and our audit of the school we provided an indication of some of the measures that would probably be proposed for the school, including:
- An air quality warning system to let the school know when air quality is likely to exceed short term NAQO’s for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, and;
- As a precaution restrict access to the portion of the playground adjoining Stoke Newington Church Street until air quality improves along the borough’s roads."
That sentiment was backed by air quality consultants working for the Mayor of London - they also suggested closing a section of William Patten's playground and installing air filters in classrooms.
All monitoring and no action:
In May 2017 Hackney Council refused a request by William Patten Primary to move the bus stop (thought to be a contributory factor in high pollution levels in the playground). And they rejected an application for a community grant towards a green screen/living wall at the front of school. Now they're proposing road closures that will increase traffic and pollution at the school.
Since this campaign launched, a green screen has been installed in front of the school but it will take years to mature and academics say the jury's out on how effective they are.
On February 8th, 2018 ITV London carried out an experiment in Stoke Newington working with scientists from Queen Mary University of London to establish how much soot is in the air children breathe. They fitted pollution monitors to a William Patten primary school pupil and measured all day. The evidence showed a sustained spike in pollution during his football practice in the school playground and a peak on his walk home that was 20 times higher what scientists consider to be safe. Dr Norrice Liu of the Queen Mary University of London, said: “It’s quite a spectacular peak – you see over a million nanograms per cubic metre air of soot. For a small child to be exposed to that level of black carbon is shocking.”
The plans are in direct breach of the draft London Plan, the Hackney Mayor’s manifesto and the Hackney Air Quality Action Plan.
Impact of poor air quality on child health
High levels of pollution are stunting children’s lung growth. Research showed that children aged between 8-10 years old, who lived in highly polluted parts of East London, had up to 10% less lung capacity than normal.
Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution.
Those with heart and lung conditions are especially vulnerable.
Pollution is a major cause of asthma.
Research has shown that children attending schools with higher traffic-related air pollution have a smaller improvement in cognitive development
In 2018 UNICEF launched a campaign to tackle air pollution in the UK. Their research found that children in London are most exposed to harmful pollution while at school or on their way to school.
Pollution in Stoke Newington
Pollution levels in Stoke Newington have also been modelled by the Greater London Authority and Kings College London and Albion Rd, Crossway and Church St are shown to have been over the European legal limit for NO2 for some time. See the Greater London Authority’s map below – anything yellow or red is above the EU legal limit for NO2.