Gazette letters: Air pollution, Highbury Fields traffic and voting system

Air pollution warning at Newington Green. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

Air pollution warning at Newington Green. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD - Credit: Nicola Baird

Did you see the pollution pods taken to Madrid for the COP25 climate conference? asks Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

They are mobile geodesic domes for an art project which helps people feel the suffocating effects of air pollution.

The idea is that you walk through purer and polluted air in a bid to convince all of us to want to make a change. The pods, created by artist Michael Pinksy, have already toured Somerset House in London - though they didn't make it to Islington.

North Londoners know plenty about polluted air. A year of monitoring in central London (2018-19) found that the average emissions of nitrogen dioxide from cars was close to double (and sometimes four times) the WHO limit. A particular problem zone was the Holloway bus garage.

While cycling through Newington Green recently I noticed a sticker saying "This street is illegally polluted" with a link to This turned out to be a Hackney council consultation, which ended last month (November), looking at a spike in vehicle, cycle and pedestrian accidents on three nearby roads which had unfortunately become rat runs after Cycle Superhighway 1 was opened in 2016.

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Drivers may also be walkers (and cyclists), but with the knowledge we all have now about how vehicles pollute cities - never mind making even back roads unsafe for bikes and pedestrians - I'm constantly amazed by how often people still claim they drive "because they have kids". No, you have a car because you want one.

So how are we going to clean up? Maybe via our politicians?

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A poll by WWF (the nature charity, not the wrestlers) found that for Londoners this election's priority is the environment - coming before Brexit, the economy, crime, housing, education and employment.

Although more than half (52 per cent of the 2001 polled) couldn't ID a robin (probably the easiest of little brown birds as it has a red chest and is ubiquitous on Christmas cards), their top three eco concerns were climate change, plastic usage and air pollution.

Let's hope that whoever takes over Number 10 is willing to think big picture solutions about more than just Brexit. Figuring out a way to clean up the air in London - and especially around schools and hospitals - would be a huge start. Until then we're all just actors in Michael Pinksy's campaigning art.

The decision to impose an experimental traffic order on the top section of Highbury Crescent (Gazette) is arbitrary, write Patricia and Danny Michelson, Highbury Fields, and Tim Sayer, Battledean Road.

The road was shut for about four years while TfL used it as a depot for workers, equipment and materials for the Highbury Corner scheme. It was generally understood that it would be returned to public use once TfL relinquished it.

The final barriers were taken down a couple of weeks ago, much to the delight of many, but the road is now barricaded with locked steel fencing. Cllr Watts has said that the council will "test and consult on keeping the road closed". The whole point is that it needs to be opened first before that can be done. The council have to compare the amount of traffic going through the Fields when Highbury Crescent is closed and then when it's open.

Numerous people have written to the council listing their reasons for allowing traffic back. Among our arguments are the dangerous jams that build up at the southern end of Highbury Place and the fact that people living on the upper west side of Highbury Fields (Highbury Terrace and Mews, Framfield, Battledean etc) who need to use vehicles, have been severely restricted since Corsica Street was also closed. Their route from Highbury Corner is now along St Paul's Road, up Highbury Grove, left into Baalbec Road, left all the way down Highbury Place and then right and up Highbury Crescent.

But all protests have been ignored.

"…the power is in your hands" (Islington South and Finsbury hopefuls go head-to-head for your vote at Gazette hustings), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

Emily Thornberry was talking about the climate emergency, not about ditching our out-dated, anti-democratic "first past the post" electoral system under which we're being asked - yet again - to vote.

Though no question was asked at the hustings, three of the candidates expressed their support for an alternative, proportional representation system under which every vote counts - you can see their views, along with that of the incumbent, here.

Let's make this the last election held under the wretched system, one which will shape our national politics at this most momentous of times.

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