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Halve private car ownership or risk missing 2030 carbon neutral target, Islington Council told

PUBLISHED: 14:03 23 October 2019 | UPDATED: 15:06 23 October 2019

From left: Emily Thornberry, Richard Watts, Caroline Russell, Jeremy Corbyn and Claudia Webbe. Picture: Islington Green Party

From left: Emily Thornberry, Richard Watts, Caroline Russell, Jeremy Corbyn and Claudia Webbe. Picture: Islington Green Party

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Campaigners warn Islington Council won't achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 unless it dramatically revises its targets for reducing private car ownership in the borough.

Islington Clean Air Parents co-founders (from left) Helena Farstad, Rachel Swynnerton and Lucy Faser. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyIslington Clean Air Parents co-founders (from left) Helena Farstad, Rachel Swynnerton and Lucy Faser. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

Islington Clean Air Parents (ICAP) are urging the council to radically rethink its draft transport strategy to combat the pollution "epidemic".

The plan aims to decrease the number of people who own cars in the borough from 37,372 in 2017, to 35,460 by 2030 and 34,800 by 2041 - a reduction of 6.9 per cent.

But ICAP say the town hall needs to halve its traffic to reach its target of becoming a carbon net zero Islington by 2030, which councillors committed to when they declared a climate emergency in June.

"Particulate matter can reach babies in the womb," said Rachel Swynnerton of ICAP. "That's causing miscarriages and premature births.

"Depending on where you live there's all these issues a new born baby is having to deal with.

"These are the issues that need to get out."

Vehicles release harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter like PM2.5 and PM10, which can enter the blood stream, damage organs and stunt children's growth.

Graph representing TfL Travel Demand Survey data 8000 households, 18,000 residents across London.  Each data point for Islington has a sample size of 1,200 with a margin or error of ~ 2.2%. Picture: Chris KenyonGraph representing TfL Travel Demand Survey data 8000 households, 18,000 residents across London. Each data point for Islington has a sample size of 1,200 with a margin or error of ~ 2.2%. Picture: Chris Kenyon

Areas around Angel, Seven Sisters Road, Old Street, Holloway Road and Caledonian Road are exceeding European Union pollution limits.

In 2015, 39 of Islington's 58 primary and secondary schools were also found to breach EU limits, and seven were in the top 100 most polluted learning environments in London.

Academics at King's College London are next month due to publish a study showing how spikes in air pollution correlate to heart attacks, strokes and acute asthma. In London, high-pollution days cause an additional 87 cardiac arrests annually, plus 74 strokes. Air pollution contributes to almost 500,000 premature deaths in Europe a year.

ICAP's Lucy Facer added: "My son Otis, two, was diagnosed with wheeze - a health problem caused by pollution. He can't sleep at night. It's really distressing."

Islington has experienced population growth outpacing London overall, estimated to increase by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2041. Despite this, the town hall says household car ownership decreased from 40 per cent in 2011 to 31pc in 2016.

Islington was also one of the first councils to introduce a car-free policy on new residential developments.

It's strategy commits to reducing the number of residential parking permits used, and investigating ways "to phase out resident and business parking permits for diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030."

ICAP argue the council could inexpensively make immediate difference by scrapping parking permits for diesel cars and the resident roamer scheme, which enables permit holders to park in residential bays between 11am and 3pm.

Sole opposition councillor Caroline Russell (Green, Highbury East) added: "If the council really cares about cleaning up the air, then policies like roamer parking, which enables short car journeys, would be put in the bin.

"The poorest communities don't have cars and the poorest communities live on main roads and are most affected by air pollution."

Transport and environment chief Cllr Claudia Webbe's says the scheme aims to help families and carers - and most people are at work when it's active.

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ICAP campaigners also question the wisdom of relying on electric cars in future as these still produce particulate matter from their brakes and are beyond most people's means - and, even if everyone did try to swap, they question whether there would be the infrastructure to supply them.

Building electric cars can emit more CO2 than conventional vehicles but they don't release NO2 and pollute less over their life cycle. Islington already has 150 on-street electric car chargers and plans to have 400 by 2021.

ICAP - the first clean air parent group in London which has 100 members - wants to inform more families of the damaging impact small actions like the pushing a pram near the curb or standing near an idling car can have.

"Low-traffic neighbourhoods is something we are really lobbying for as a priority," said ICAP's Helena Farstad.

These aim to stop through traffic on residential roads. An example is the mini-Holland in Waltham Forest, which use barriers to design out rat-running, while keeping them easy for pedestrians and cyclists to access.

Helena added: "They [critics] try to shout you down by saying it's a middle class issue but actually it's an issue of social justice."

Lucy said: "Knife crime is bad and getting worse but deaths are in the hundreds not the thousands.

"One in 20 die from pollution-related diseases. It's an epidemic."

Islington currently ranks second among London boroughs for the percentage of journeys made within its boundary by public transport, walking and cycling, according to TfL data - but, if all boroughs meet their targets, it would fall to ninth by 2041.

The TfL travel demands survey includes 8,000 households and 18,000 Londoners.

Each data point has a sample size of 1,200 with a margin of error of 2.2 per cent.

Labour Cycles chair Chris Kenyon told the Gazette: "My concern is twofold. First, is that [Islington's] sustainable transport road share has dropped over the last six years, while Camden and Hackney's have increased -and, in terms of reductions going forward, Islington has set the least ambitious target.

"[It] targets being ninth by 2041 and given we are the most densely populated London borough, it just doesn't make sense. Islington's [projected] change of car ownership is a reduction of 1,818 cars over 21 years.

"Let's get it in perspective, Camden reduced car ownership by 1,981 last year.

"The critical test is the clarity with which they articulate what low traffic neighbourhoods are. We would like to see a borough-wide set of low traffic neighbourhoods."

Cllr Webbe said: "The draft transport strategy outlines our bold vision for how we will help make transport in Islington healthy, fair, accessible and enjoyable.

"Whilst we are proud of what we have achieved so far, we can still do more to make neighbourhoods more liveable, to improve the environment, to reduce car usage and to support more people to make travelling on foot, by bicycle or public transport their preferred choice.

"We intend to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and healthy streets by closing roads and rebalancing our streets in favour of pedestrians and cyclists, and will apply for Liveable Neighbourhood funding for as long as it remains available to help deliver our ambition.

"We will continue to close roads outside schools at pick-up and drop-off times, to prevent road incidents, improve air quality and encourage more active travel.

"We are working on an ambitious programme of clean air walking routes and cycle routes across the borough, including removing parking that acts as visual barriers at junctions.

"Cutting transport-related carbon emissions in Islington is at the heart of our strategy which will also play a huge part in our commitment to help Islington become carbon neutral by 2030 - but we cannot do it alone."

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