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Schools to be ‘car-free zones’

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, has announced that schools can pilot trials where streets around them are closed to cars for a few hours if  parents are concerned about their children’s health.

Play Streets, where some roads are closed off at weekends where there is demand, are also being proposed as part of the council’s campaign to improve air quality and ‘Breathe Clean’.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said:

“I am committed to cleaning up air quality in Tower Hamlets. Residents have told us that idling cars cause unnecessary emissions, and this is of particular concern for our young people who are exposed to fumes when they are being collected from school.

“Our Breathe Clean campaign is about tackling air pollution across the borough and raising awareness about what can be done locally to improve air quality and reduce risk to residents’ health.”

Cllr Rachel Blake, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Air Quality added:

“I am pleased that we have started to introduce car-free zones around schools. Children deserve to start their lives in the best possible health. The loss of their lung capacity because of an excessive pollution from vehicles on the road is wrong. Some of the worst air quality is in our most deprived areas. We can dramatically improve air quality if we work together to reduce pollution from vehicles.”

Councillor Danny Hassell, Councillor Denise Jones and council enforcement officers patrolled Brick Lane on 21 September to ensure drivers switched off their engines when their cars were stationary and encouraged them to walk or cycle on 22 September, in support of national Car Free Day.

Brick Lane will also be closed to traffic on 30 September so that residents can celebrate Brick Lane Festival.

In Tower Hamlets, more than 50 per cent of pollution that damages health comes from cars and other vehicles. 7.4 per cent of all deaths in Tower Hamlets in people over the age of 30 are caused by air pollution.

Research by King’s College found that children in Tower Hamlets had up to 10per cent less lung capacity than the national average as a result of air pollution.  Work is therefore being done to improve air pollution around schools.

40 per cent of residents in Tower Hamlets live in areas of that exceed government and EU legal levels, and this particularly affects children and people with underlying breathing complaints.

Air pollution dropped by 89 percent on some sections of the London marathon route in 2018 when large parts of London were closed to traffic.

The council introduced #BreatheClean, a campaign to reduce air pollution in Tower Hamlets in March 2018.