A Hackney Council meeting fell into chaos last night during a resident’s petition about the impact of proposed road closures on her children’s health.
Speaker Soraya Adejare was forced to use her gavel and firmly say “gavel, gavel” in an attempt to restore order.
Parent Lucy Harbor, an air quality consultant and member of Cleaner Air for William Patten, was scheduled to present her petition to councillors about road closures in the Walford Road area of Stoke Newington.
Harbor was urging the council to “abandon these plans” which she believes would shift traffic to Church Street and increase pollution outside William Patten Primary School.
But the debate which followed broke down into shouting across the chamber and confusion about the process of the meeting.
Cllr Feryal Demirci, cabinet member for neighbourhoods, transport and parks, responded to the petition by defending the road closures, saying there was evidence pollution levels near the school would not be as high as parents fear.
She also said a new “audit” on the road closures’ impact on pollution using “really high-tech equipment” would be ready in the “early summer”.
Cllr Demirci added: “We will sit down with parents and take them through all of that data before any decision is made on the future of this scheme.”
Harbor, who has two children at the school, made a rebuttal of each point before concluding: “I’m disgusted.
“You’ve got data there that shows pollution levels at the school are bad, and you’re trying to downplay it, and send more traffic past the school. I think it’s absolutely shameful.”
The Speaker then proposed a vote on Cllr Demirci’s offer to meet with worried parents, to the general confusion of councillors and the public.
Harbor complained that this was not what her petition called for, and asked the council to vote on keeping the Mayor’s 2016 election campaign pledge to tackle pollution near Hackney’s schools.
Several more attempts at a vote on Cllr Demirci’s offer were made, while opposition councillor Simche Steinberger, of the Conservative Party, appeared to call for a vote on Harbor’s petition.
Mayor Philip Glanville also tried to move things along, but eventually the yelling across the chamber and unrest from the public gallery was only silenced by the Speaker’s gavel.
Harbor left the podium visibly disappointed. Her group Cleaner Air for William Patten has received more than 800 signatures opposing the road closures around Walford Road.
Hackney Council argues the closures will reduce car use and accidents and promote healthier travel by walking and cycling.