Mums hit out at council with dangerous air pollution levels and ‘outdated’ green policies

Mums have hit out at a council for its “resistance” against introducing traffic free school streets despite dangerous levels of pollution.

Bexley council is one of two London councils that is yet to introduce a single traffic free school street according to Transport for London (TfL) data, the other being Hammersmith and Fulham.

School Streets is a scheme that stops traffic access to roads outside schools during drop-off and pick-up times to reduce the threat of road danger and pollution exposure to children.

Sarah Frost, 34, from Bexleyheath has a six-month-old daughter. She said: “I am extremely concerned about the levels of air pollution in Bexley. 

I live on a road with both a primary and secondary school where a lot of traffic builds up at drop-off and pick-up times, there’s a lot of congestion and a lot of pollution.

“I’m worried about the shorter-term impacts of pollution on my daughter’s health and I am also really concerned about the long-term impacts on the climate crisis and how this will affect her future.

“I am deeply troubled by the council’s lack of action on pollution.”

Sarah Frost says she is “extremely concerned”  about pollution in Bexley (Picture: Sarah Frost)

The Healthy Scorecard is a collection of the latest TfL data that shows each London councils’ green policies and efforts to reduce pollution.

The scorecard has been put together by a coalition of transport, health, road safety and environment campaigns – the Health Streets Coalition.

Compared to the whole of London, Bexley comes in the bottom four boroughs for managed roads with 20mph speed limits and the bottom three for sustainable travel to school.

The data also shows, there are 104 cars per 100 households in the borough compared with the Greater London average of 71.

Jemima Hartshorn, 41, lives in Southwark with her two children, four and seven. She is part of Mums for Lungs – an environmental campaign group which raises awareness of the health effects of air pollution across London, particularly on children.

Jemima Hartshorn speaking at an Air Quality News Conference (Picture: Air Quality News)

Ms Hartshorn said: “Bexley council is extremely resistant to any kind of progressive change in the air quality sector.

“I have spoken to so many parents from Belxey and they feel deflated.

“At the moment it’s really hard to believe that this is a local authority that wants to do things for children.

“Their policies are so outdated – I’m not surprised they tried to stop ULEZ being expanded.”

Bexley council was one of four London councils that brought a judicial case against City Hall’s ULEZ plans, only for it to be ruled legal earlier this year.

Earlier this month, the campaign group, Friends of the Earth, released their analysis of the latest census data – from 2022 – that showed every neighbourhood in Bexley was exposed to air pollution exceeding the World Health Organisation recommended safety limit.

Of these, three neighbourhoods had levels of dangerous air particles twice as high as the established standard.

Ms Hartshorn said: “School Streets is a brilliant scheme that has been introduced well over 500 times across London.

“I’m scared for my children – the climate situation is only going to get worse.”

A spokeswoman from Bexley council said: “Bexley has a number of 20 mph zones and traffic schemes which encompass school sites as well as a dedicated School Travel Plan Officer who works with schools. 

“We have also been successful on a bid for three school superzones that encompasses nine schools. 

The Council has regular meetings with TfL on Bus Priority initiatives. Areas of concern are discussed and progressed where appropriate.”

 Councillor David Leaf said: “We have introduced these initiatives despite the Mayor of London’s complete failure to provide us with resources to introduce sensible and locally supported traffic schemes.”

Pictured top: Jemima Hartshorn speaking for Mums for Lungs at a Clean Air Carnival (Picture: Crispin Hughes)

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