Tower Hamlets Council green light 11 new ‘School’ Streets

Primary school child. Pic: Sustrans.

Tower Hamlets council’s commitment to cleaning up air quality in its primary school districts by implementing ‘school’ streets has begun.

The council has appointed the UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans to deliver the first 11 ‘school’ streets as part of a commitment to provide 50 ‘school’ streets in the borough by 2022.

The first phase of school streets will include: St Peter’s London Dock primary school, Culloden, Bygrove, Mayflower primary, Kobi Nazrul, Lansbury Lawrence, Columbia, Harry Gosling, Virginia, Globe and St Luke’s CofE.

‘School’ streets will create pedestrianised streets which will see motor traffic diverted away from the school gate to reduce air pollution and create a safer environment outside primary schools in the borough.

The council began the initiative by implementing traffic restrictions next to schools last year. The decision follows a pilot scheme in Limehouse when the Salmon Road cul-de-sac was turned into a “school” street next to Sir William Burrough Primary last year.

The restrictions came with fixed penalty notices to drivers leaving engines running outside the gate and were aimed mainly at parents dropping off and collecting children.

They also included banning cars when pupils arrive in the morning and leave at home-time.

According to researchers at Kings College London, children in Tower Hamlets typically have 10 per cent less lung capacity than the national average. This they say is due to poor air quality in the borough.

A Greater London Authority (GLA) report in 2016 showed five East End schools being the worst in London for toxic air. These were Canon Barnett in Whitechapel, English Martyrs at Tower Hill, Woolmore and Holy Family both in Poplar and Sir John Cass in Aldgate.

The programme will aim to work with the local community around the schools to demonstrate the benefits of reducing motor traffic for the school run.

It will also collaborate with the community to work on street design proposals aimed at developing lasting improvements to the immediate area surrounding the schools.

The council says that whilst improving air quality is the main objective of the school streets programme, road safety and reducing accidents will also be a key focus.

Matt Winfield, London Director for Sustrans said:“Every child deserves a safe, fun trip to and from the school where they can talk and play with their family and friends away from motor vehicles and polluting fumes.

“It’s shocking to know that all the schools across London are in locations which breach World Health Organisation limits for air quality.

“We’re thrilled to see Tower Hamlets take this step to reduce motor traffic at drop-off and pick-up times outside its primary schools.

“We can’t wait to get them, their families, teachers and residents involved in designing school streets which will put people at their heart, making for a healthier, happier and friendlier place to be.”

The proposed changes to the road network and surrounding environment will begin in autumn and will be developed with the first wave of schools before public consultation. Agreed changes will then be introduced in the first quarter of 2020.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said: ‘Poor air quality disproportionately impacts on both quality and length of life, so we have been promoting changes to behaviour that will clean up our dirty air for several years.

‘Appointing Sustrans to work with us is another important step on the path to delivering our commitment to introduce school streets for 50 of our primary schools by April 2022. We want to make it easier and safer for our pupils to walk to school and breathe cleaner air.’

Currently, streets in Tower Hamlets, Islington, Birmingham, Hackney, Greenwich, Camden, Croydon, Bristol and Lambeth are all trialling the initiative to improve air quality for pupils.



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