Air pollution fears halt school building plan

Campaigners are demanding action to reduce dirty air associated with busy roads in the borough

North Circular

The North Circular, London’s most polluted road, goes through Walthamstow

Air pollution could become the focus of a new borough-wide campaign after a primary school’s building plans were rejected over health concerns.

Environmental campaigners hope to team up with regional authorities to monitor air pollution throughout the borough, while providing locally-relevant advice to people on how to avoid its worst effects.

Recent events have given a new impetus to tackling the problem of air pollution, which is linked to diseases including asthma and cancer.

Walthamstow Primary Academy, a free school opened on a temporary site last year, was told by the Waltham Forest Council in January it couldn’t go ahead with its planned new building because “excessive levels of air pollution would potentially result in a serious impact upon the health and wellbeing of future occupiers of the school”.

The site is nearby to Crooked Billet roundabout, the most polluted area in Waltham Forest. This section of the North Circular is also the most polluted road in the capital, according to Clean Air in London.

A spokesperson for United Learning, the private operator of the school, said: “While we are disappointed that the planning committee did not follow the planning officer’s recommendation [to approve permission] we have every expectation that a permanent site for the school will be found soon.”

Brian Kelly, an environmental campaigner in Waltham Forest, told the Echo: “I think the council is aware of the problem, rejecting the school’s plans suggest that’s the case.

“Air pollution is a bit like climate change, we know it is a problem but it is not quite in the public consciousness yet. It needs big solutions on a large scale, such as ditching diesel fuel and massively reducing traffic.

“Other places have done it, so it is not impossible. It requires political commitment. If there are local projects going on, allowing people to monitor air pollution themselves, it helps make the problem more real.”

Another cause for concern in Waltham Forest is a new “concentrated” flight path introduced by London City Airport, four miles south of the borough. The new arrangement, begun on 4th February, now means an average of 30 planes fly directly over Leyton and Leytonstone on three out of every four days of the year.

As well as worsening air quality, flight paths contribute to high levels of noise pollution that can also have harmful effects on health.

Waltham Forest, along with most boroughs in London, was declared an Air Quality Management Area by the government in 2001. It means pollution is measured regularly at three specified hotspots. Data collected from Crooked Billet showed that levels of one air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, were beyond safe levels in both 2014 and 2015.


To see more data on air pollution in Waltham Forest:

Visit www.airqualityengland.co.uk/local-authority/?la_id=211

Visit cleanair.london

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