Stoke Newington parents slam council’s ‘scandalous’ traffic plans

Pollution worries: William Patten pupils enjoy an outdoor lesson. Photograph: William Patten School

Parents at one of Hackney’s most polluted schools have hit out at the council over “scandalous” traffic plans that could see at least 500 more cars drive past its gates every day.

The Town Hall is consulting on road closures in the Walford Road area, and says the aim is to create a safer environment for everyone, “especially for pedestrians and cyclists”.

But it admits the proposals will push traffic onto Church Street, home to William Patten primary school, which a 2016 report found to be one of the worst polluted schools in London.

The council estimates that closing one of either Barbauld Road or Walford Road will see 564 extra cars using Church Street every 24 hours.

But Town Hall transport chief Cllr Feryal Demirci said this is a “worst case scenario” and “should not result in any appreciable worsening of air quality outside the school”, adding: “We recently closed two notorious rat runs around Frampton Park Road but have not seen significantly increased congestion on the neighbouring main roads.”

Jenna Fansa, founder of local network StokeyParents, said: “Firstly those estimates by the council seem incredibly conservative – I fear the numbers would be much greater.

“But for the council to claim that an extra 564 extra cars passing the gates wouldn’t cause worse pollution for our schoolchildren is both laughable and incredibly alarming.

“We believe the council should be actively trying to reduce traffic and pollution outside our school playgrounds and to be doing something, which by their own admission, will actively increase traffic is scandalous.”

She accused the council of “failing in its duty of care to protect our children from harmful emissions”.

William Patten is one of 50 schools taking part in Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s first air quality audits, and parents recently launched a petition calling on the council to remove a nearby bus stop outside the playground.

The school has also fundraised for a green screen – a trellis covered in ivy – which will be placed along its Church Street boundary.

Parent Sally Newsom said: “The Mayor of London has flagged improving air quality for school children as a major priority – Hackney Council’s [Walford Road area] proposals go completely against that.”

A Stoke Newington residents’ group last week condemned the plans as a “clumsy attempt” to deal with congestion.

Fansa, who says a number of local traders are also opposed, added: “We want to work with the council to come up with a solution that doesn’t simply push the problem to other streets and which genuinely improves cycle routes and reduces pollution.”

But Hackney Cycling Campaign’s Jono Kenyon voiced his support for the current plans, saying: “Getting more people cycling by making it more attractive, and restricting motor vehicle use, is absolutely the way forward and is fully endorsed by Hackney Cycling.”

Cabinet member for transport Cllr Feryal Demirci. Photograph: Hackney Council

Cllr Demirci said: “We take air quality extremely seriously and want to do everything we can to reduce children’s exposure to toxic air.

“We monitor the air quality around schools and work with them to reduce the impact of air pollution, for example by banning vehicles outside schools at pick up and drop off times to discourage parents from driving their children to school.

“We have installed a detailed continuous monitoring station by William Patten school and will publish the results of an audit with recommended actions to reduce pupils’ exposure to air pollution.”

She added: “We are also investigating moving the bus stop outside William Patten and other air quality improvements in the area.”

Cllr Demirci is set to meet parents from William Patten today at a local ward forum, which starts at 6pm in St Paul’s Church, 182 Stoke Newington Road.

The Walford Road area consultation closes on 26 January.

To find out more about the plans, or to have your say, please visit the council’s consultation page here