Hackney Council has announced that a scheme of planned road closures in Stoke Newington which has provoked heated debate will be put back out for a further “consultation exercise”.
The news comes after an independent air quality model commissioned by the Town Hall predicted small increases in toxic air pollution for some of the borough’s schools as a result of the plans, as well as for businesses on Stoke Newington Church Street.
Campaigners welcomed the Town Hall’s decision to consult on the permanent closure of Nevill, Clonbrock and Allen Roads, but strongly protested the fact that the final decision will be made by unelected council officers.
A spokesperson for CleanAir4Schools said: “Whilst we welcome the council’s decision to consult, given the numerous flaws and omissions in the last consultation, we are calling for this to be conducted by an independent organisation.
“For this consultation to be meaningful, the council will need to give residents a fair description of the disbenefits as well as the benefits of the scheme.
“That includes making it clear that one school playground (Grasmere) would be tipped over the legal pollution limit, another (St Mary’s) already has illegal pollution and will be made worse and two more schools will suffer considerable increases in traffic hazards and pollution.
“It means admitting these road closures will put little children at higher risk of supressed lung development and respiratory problems.
“Given the scale of the harm they’ll cause, the recommendation that cabinet members delegate the final decision to an officer seems completely undemocratic.
“It says a lot about the strength of opposition if the only way they can get these road closures through is by undermining the more democratic cabinet voting system.
“We urge cabinet members, who have a duty to protect the most vulnerable people in these communities, not to shirk their responsibilities by delegating such an important decision and to reject a recommendation that will effectively allow Cllr Feryal Demirci to bulldoze these harmful plans through.”
Hackney Council was approached for comment on the decision to leave the final post-consultation decision on the closures to group director of neighbourhoods and housing Kim Wright, but had not responded by time of going to press.
It is understood that the Town Hall does have the power to delegate decisions, with council officers often taking decisions on behalf of councillors.
Almost 60 Stoke Newington businesses signed a petition protesting against the proposals, fearing a rise in traffic on Church Street.
The Town Hall, which has been consulting on the proposals in an attempt to reduce rat run traffic around Walford, Brighton and Nevill Roads since December 2017, will now vote on proposals to reconsult in light of the new air quality modelling data being released.
If voted through at the coming 29 April cabinet meeting, a further consultation exercise will take place, following which the borough’s elected councillors have delegated the final decision on whether to go ahead with the changes to the council officer in charge of neighbourhoods and housing, Kim Wright.
Campaigner Nicky Bowden, who is a member of a local residents’ group separate to CleanAir4Schools who work to raise awareness of consultations around the closures, welcomed the decision to reconsult.
Bowden said: “I am glad to see that the council have stepped back from their original intention to make a decision on the road closures at cabinet on 29 April.
“A re-run consultation – putting in front of local residents the complete, correct and relevant information they need to decide their views – is the fair and democratic way forward.
“I welcome the council’s acknowledgement in the report that further measures need to be taken to improve air quality on Crossway.
“While I am critical of the technical failings of the Walford Road area consultation, and the inexplicable length of time it’s taken to get to this point, I hope that cabinet members and councillors will ensure that any new consultation would be transparent and representative, taking into full consideration the views of all consultees.”
The Town Hall put forward two options for closures in its initial consultation.
Of the 2,231 people who responded, 72 per cent opposed option A – if you include those who responded ‘Neither’ when asked which version the prefer – which would see Barbauld Road permanently closed where it intersects Albion Road, and Allen Road where it meets Shakespeare Walk.
Option B, the permanent closure of Nevill Road between Osterley and Walford Roads, as well as Clonbrock and Allen Roads at their junction with Nevill Road, was opposed by 61 per cent of respondents, again if you include those who answered ‘Neither’.
The Town Hall is asking cabinet to recommend a further consultation on option B, which transport chief Cllr Feryal Demirci describes as the “better of the two”.
The council accepts that nitrogen dioxide pollution, under the more stringent ‘annual mean objective’ of 40 µg/m3, would increase at:
- William Patten School (by 0.3 per cent under Option A and 1 per cent under Option B)
- St Mary’s School (by 2.2 per cent under Option A and 1.5 per cent under Option B)
- Grasmere School (by 3 per cent under Option A and 1 per cent under Option B)
While most of the impacts on schools in the affected areas are listed as ‘Negligible’, eight of 14 schools monitored would see slight rises under Option A, and 10 out of 14 under Option B, with St Marys School on Barn Street and Grasmere Primary School on Albion Road seeing increases described as ‘Moderate Adverse’.
The Town Hall has underlined that it would roll out measures mitigating the impact of the rise in pollution caused by the changes, including moving bus stops and installing green walls.
However, the report recommending the new consultation accepts that if planned improvements to the city’s bus fleet were not taken into account, air quality would substantially deteriorate at William Patten by 4.6 per cent.
Cllr Feryal Demirci (Lab, Hoxton East & Shoreditch), Deputy Mayor and cabinet member for health, social care, transport and parks, said: “The Walford Road proposals are aimed at reducing rat-running traffic and creating a better environment for walking and cycling. The proposals would also tackle some of the antisocial behaviour and dangerous driving associated with rat-running traffic.
“Residents of Walford Road, Brighton Road and Nevill Road in particular have raised significant concerns about the traffic and the wider adverse implications that this has for the neighbourhood.
“Residents have told us that they want to look at and feed back on the proposals in light of the air quality modelling, so I’m recommending that further consultation is carried out on option B of the scheme, which, in light of all the up to date information and subject to that further consultation, is currently considered to be the better of the two options previously put forward for the area.
“This will ensure all residents can weigh up the benefits of the proposals alongside the air quality modelling and measures we’re implementing to tackle poor air quality in Stoke Newington.”
The further consultation on the Walford Road proposals is expected to start in May.
Edit: This article was updated at 17:46 on 18 April with further information on the Town Hall’s powers of delegation. The article was further updated at 12:22 on 19 April to make clear that Nicky Bowden is a member of a local residents’ group who work to raise awareness of consultations around the closures, and not part of campaign group CleanAir4Schools.