BY TOBY PORTER
An alliance of parents is calling for pedestrian zones around schools, during drop-off times and at the end of the day, to cut pollution for pupils.
Mums for Lungs (MFL), a campaign group created in Lambeth which has now spread throughout the capital, is petitioning town hall chiefs to ban cars, vans and lorries from areas around classrooms.
This comes after MFL founder Jemima Hartshorn issued a Freedom of Information request to the Greater London Authority which showed that of the 438 schools in London where concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are toxic and therefore illegal, 40 are in Lambeth. The call comes two months after a government scientist agreed pollution was a major cause of the death of Ella Kissi Debra, who lived in Hither Green, 25m off the South Circular Road.
MFL wants Lambeth council to cut pollution and increase awareness of safety around schools by banning petrol and diesel vehicles from around all the borough’s 90 schools.
Lambeth is one of the most polluted of the 32 London boroughs, with Brixton Road, Brixton having the highest average of NO2 pollution – levels so far this year are higher than 2017, despite a low emission bus route having been introduced last year.
In London, more than 9,500 people die prematurely every year as a result of the exposure to unsafe levels of pollution – in particular NO2 and particulate matter (PM) – microbes of dust which can cause damage to the heart and lungs.
MFL has launched a petition on change.org which has attracted 137 signatures and says: “Children are particularly vulnerable to pollution that contributes to asthma, cancer, diabetes, dementia and many other preventable diseases.
“We expect that the trials of School Streets around many of the very polluted schools in Lambeth will have the same effects as elsewhere: less traffic with minimal impact on local businesses and residents, as well as leading to increased awareness of pollution issues amongst parents, pupils and other drivers across Lambeth.
“Pollution in London is caused primarily by road transport such as cars, lorries and buses, with diesel being the worst offender. Global Action Plans has modelled that a diesel car in London costs the NHS about £8,000 in damage it causes to health.
“School Streets are less congested and generally have less traffic during those hours that many pupils are going to be walking/cycling on the pavement; thus increasing road safety and reducing pollution, as well as increasing awareness of these issues.”
School Streets creates zones for pedestrians and cycles only at set times in the morning and afternoon.
Vehicles are not permitted to enter the street between these times unless they have an exemption – for example for residents, workers and blue badge holders.
Non-registered vehicles entering the street during the restricted times are caught on camera and issued a fixed penalty notice.
Hackney, Walthamstow, Camden and Croydon have implemented varying kinds of School Streets, which has been considered a success.