Tower Hamlets Council is appealing to the public for suggestions on how to combat the borough’s shocking air pollution levels.
Mayor John Biggs and Councillor Rachel Blake met local residents and school children last week to discuss the council’s Air Quality Action Plan.
A public consultation on the plan was opened last month after worrying reports revealed that seven per cent of deaths in Tower Hamlets are caused by manmade air pollution and 60 per cent of schools and colleges in the borough are exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).
Rebecca Abrahams, head teacher at St Luke’s Church of England school in Tower Hamlets, said: “We have a duty to protect the children in our care, but sadly, even while they play outside at lunch, they are being harmed by invisible air pollution from traffic. Given what we know about the life-long consequences of exposure to air pollution as a child, it’s imperative we clean up London’s air without delay.”
The consultation asks for feedback on the council’s plans including the installation of electric vehicle charge points and increased engagement with businesses and schools to help reduce their own impact on air pollution.
Biggs said that improving air quality is a “matter of social justice” and an “urgent public health priority” that can be improved locally but can only be solved by national government intervention.
“It’s unacceptable that some of our local schools are among the most polluted in the city, and that people in Tower Hamlets are twice as likely to die from lung cancer and other lung diseases than people in London’s most well off boroughs. We know that pollution has the worst impact on the young and in deprived areas,” he said.
In January City Hall issued a “red alert” to warn people in Tower Hamlets and seven other boroughs about dangerous pollution levels. Nearly 10,000 Londoners die each year due to the high levels of pollution across the capital.
The meeting last Wednesday started with a poem and song about air quality before the children, who attend Chisenhale Primary School in Bow, raised concerns over local pollution. Air quality is currently an issue for head teachers and children at 48 of the primary and secondary schools across the borough.
Cllr Rachel Blake, Cabinet Member for Strategic Development, said: “Improving air quality is a top priority for the whole council as it affects our residents’ life chances.
“It is great that residents want us to go even further to improve air quality by taking additional actions in the plan, such as being tougher on engine idling and air quality along the canals. The consultation will have feedback from local residents, teachers and businesses so that we can build on those views to move forward and improve air quality together.”
The consultation closes on Thursday, July 27. You can give your views on the borough’s air quality here