Walford Road Closures
CleanAir4Schools has been campaigning for almost two years - urging the Council not to close Walford Road to traffic now.
The aim of the closures is to try reduce traffic and collisions on back streets and create more "liveable neighbourhoods." Pollution levels in and around Walford Road are much lower (well within legal limits), yet many of the streets that will have significant traffic and pollution increases through the scheme are residential streets too, they're home to numerous schools and nurseries. They're at the heart of community life - and large parts of them are illegally polluted already.
Through our campaign we now know the road closures would:
- Increase traffic on already illegally-polluted streets, including Albion Road, Crossway, Stoke Newington Church Street and Matthias Road.
- Seven schools and seven nurseries will have worse pollution if the closures go ahead. The schools include St Mary’s, William Patten, Grasmere, Newington Green, Princess May, St Matthias and Stoke Newington School. The nurseries include Coconut, N Nursery, N16 Tots, Beatty Nursery, The Factory Children’s Centre, Monkey Puzzle and William Patten Daycare.
- Three schools (Grasmere, St Mary’s and Princess May) will have illegal levels of pollution.
Traffic increases will include:
- 17% increase on Stoke Newington Church Street
- 18% increase on Crossway
- 40% increase on Matthias Road
- 37% increase in southbound traffic on the southern section of Albion Road
- 34% increase in Boleyn Road
- 122% increase in Dynevor Road
The pollution impacts of this scheme are a breach of the Council’s own Air Quality Action Plan.
So why are we worried?
- More traffic = more pollution and more hazards
- Children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution because their lungs are still growing.
- Increasing traffic past schools on streets which already have harmful levels of pollution will increase the risk of children developing life-threatening respiratory illnesses like asthma and pneumonia.
- At these high levels, child lung growth can be stunted by up to 10%
- We know from Unicef that even though children in the UK spend more time at home, most of the pollution they breathe happens while they’re at school or on their way to school.
- When little children are in the playground they’re often running around and breathing deeply – more particles of black carbon and NO2 are entering their lungs.
Over 500 people joined the CleanAir4Schools Press Pause March in April 2019.
It was the UK’s largest ever clean air march.
Why should the Council wait?
- Because in 2021 the Ultra-Low Emission Zone is coming to Hackney. Hopefully the air at local schools will start to become cleaner then.
- Because pollution levels at local schools are already so harmful – we need urgent action to bring pollution to much safer levels at schools and nurseries, before the council even considers increasing traffic past them
- Because mitigation measures (like green screens, anti-pollution gates and zero emission neighbourhoods) should be implemented and proven to work first. At the moment William Patten is the only school with a green screen and they’re still recording worrying pollution peaks in the middle of the playground.
- Because to knowingly make things worse risks the health of children.
There are alternatives to full closures
CleanAir4Schools has suggested other options that could improve the situation on Walford Rd without such harmful consequences. They include timed road closures at night (so traffic isn’t displaced past schools and nurseries during the day) or creating one-way streets with traffic calming so vehicles don’t come face to face.
What worrying things have we discovered about Hackney Council’s conduct?
For over a year Hackney Council insisted that the annual legal limit of 40 µg/m3 for nitrogen dioxide didn’t apply in school playgrounds. They said for a long time that children spend less time in the playground so only the hourly limit of 200 µg/m3 applies. CleanAir4Schools set to work investigating - every Council in London that responded to our inquiry disagreed with Hackney’s stance. Now Hackney concedes the limit of 40 is applicable.
Hackney mis-measured the distances between pollution monitors and school facades (at schools that will be impacted by these road closures). The effect, when calculating pollution drop-off, is to assume schools are much less polluted than they are. In every case they overestimated the distance – at Princess May by 44metres, at Grasmere by 18 metres, at William Patten by 5 metres, at St Mary’s by 2 metres.
Hackney Council has repeatedly claimed the area of playground up to the boundary of Grasmere Primary isn’t actively used by children. That’s despite the headteacher there and parents telling them it is. We have video footage of children routinely playing up to the boundary. This is the part of the school that the air quality model shows will breach EU air quality limits if the road closures go ahead.
Despite the Council’s air quality and traffic model clearly showing three schools being tipped over the legal pollution limit if these closures go ahead, Hackney has claimed no schools will be tipped over the legal limit – they base that assumption on limited monitoring and untested and unmodelled assumptions about what will happen when ULEZ arrives here.
Their consultations have been misleading and unbalanced – the first consultation massively underestimated the likely traffic increases for local roads, the second consultation included accident statistics in and around Walford Rd but gave no analysis of accidents on the streets that will receive the displaced traffic.
On Monday April 29th 2019 Cabinet members voted to allow a single officer to make the final decision about the road closures. We think that's undemocratic and that a decision that big with such harmful consequences should be taken by elected members.