Five Wandsworth primary schools may trial ‘school streets’ scheme to cut air pollution

Five Wandsworth schools could trial a school streets programme to tackle air pollution starting in the next school year, a freedom of information request has revealed. 

Alderbrook, Earlsfield, Furzedown, Hillbrook and Penwortham primary schools may trial school streets, subject to consultation and legal processes, with the duration of the trial being dependent on its impact and the reaction received.

The School Streets programme has been implemented by councils across London to reduce children’s exposure to air pollution and increase road safety.

Tooting resident James Grant, 35, has a daughter who is expected to attend Sellincourt School next year.

Mr Grant said: “School streets is a fantastic idea. We should be making it safe for children to get to school without traffic problems and danger from cars outside the gates, and ensuring the air they breathe while at school is as clean as possible.

“It will help make it the default option for all the local kids to walk, scoot and cycle to school. It’s crucial for their health to be active every day, it’s better for the air quality for all of us and it will relieve traffic congestion.”

In 2017 it was reported that 31 schools in Wandsworth were situated in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide breached EU legal limits of 40 micrograms per cubic metre of air. According to The Guardian, toxic air has been at illegal levels in most urban areas in the UK for nearly a decade, with children particularly vulnerable as their lungs are still developing.

Jemima Hartshorn (pictured above), founder of air pollution campaign group Mums for Lungs, is campaigning for School Streets in south London.

She said: “I’m really worried about the severe and irreversible effect of air pollution. The huge benefits of a school street are that those most vulnerable to air pollution are clustered along school gates. It raises awareness of the interlinked problems of children’s health and fumes from road traffic.”

Ms Hartshorn added: “This project requires councils to change the laws around roads, and it can’t be done without their support.”

Typically, school streets close twice a day during school drop off and pick up hours, however, Wandsworth Council said the closing hours are unknown at this stage and would be determined through surveys and consultations.

Wandsworth transport spokesman Councillor Paul Ellis said:  “Reducing the impact of vehicle traffic and encouraging parents and children to walk to school are key priorities for the council.

“If parents and local residents in any affected streets agree to trial schemes, there could be a really beneficial impact on air quality standards around these schools. What will also be important is making sure we get the logistics of the scheme right.”

A UNICEF report published last November discovered that a child is exposed to 60% of the air pollution they take in each day on the journey to school and during the school day.

Wandsworth Council said that a school streets trial would only apply during term times, and would not affect residents who live in the streets or drivers with a disability who need access.

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