CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Don’t let your children walk to school along main roads, air quality experts tell parents

08 November, 2016 — By Richard Osley

Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer chaired a question and answer session

PARENTS have been told to stop their children from walking along red routes to school due to fears over toxic air.

Instead, families were asked to make sure that journeys to school take side roads as Camden Council held a summit with residents to search for suggestions over how to beat pollution.

The Town Hall chamber was packed last Wednesday for a question and answer debate with air quality experts, hosted by Holborn and St Pancras MP Keir Starmer. It comes as volunteers in different areas of the borough have been helping with test tube tests to work out how bad the problem is.

Ideas from the public included making Camden a completely diesel-free borough.

Asked what the best thing that could be done immediately, Simon Birkett, the director of Clean Air in London, said: “We should be banning diesel. We need to warn people about the dangers. We need to be advising people on how to protect themselves, so that kids don’t walk down red routes and they walk down side streets to school. We need to tell people about how they can reduce pollution.”

Mr Birkett said Camden Council was alert to the problem but was not the best performing local authority in London on clean air and that residents needed to keep up pressure on the Town Hall to do more.

He added that London Mayor Sadiq Khan also needed to be pushed to be “bigger and bolder” des­pite a good start.

People worried by levels of pollution were asked how they thought the issue could be tackled with environment chief Councillor Meric Apak insisting that he would “rule nothing out” and would consider all suggestions.

“The ideas we have been asked to look at are car-free days, a diesel-free borough, incentives for electric cars and improving the infrastructure for them in the borough,” said Cllr Apak. “More trees, hedges, green spaces, and a specific numerical target on the quality of our air in our action plan.”

He added: “To be honest I’m astonished with the government’s approach on this because fuel duty on diesel is actually lower than petrol.

“Increasing fuel duty on diesel and increasing road tax on diesel cars. I’m amazed they haven’t already done that.”

Mr Starmer has held several meetings on air quality and pledged to make it one of his key priorities since his election to parliament for the first time last May.

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