Gazette letters: Air pollution, road widths, mysterious charity and Genesis HA

Air pollution above London (Picture: Will McCallum)

Air pollution above London (Picture: Will McCallum) - Credit: Archant

London was engulfed in a haze of air pollution last week, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

What a sad state of affairs to have the mayor of your city advising children not to play outdoors for fear of the toxic emissions suspended in the air around us.

A report for City Hall last year featured half a dozen schools each from Islington and Hackney in their list of top 100 schools where students were breathing in more than the annual mean limit of highly polluted air. Last week, headteachers from more than 100 London schools wrote a letter to the mayor urging the expansion of the “ultra-low emissions zone” to tackle this problem (diesel vehicles account for more than 40 per cent of some of the worst offending pollutants).

There are loads of possible solutions to stopping these tiny toxic particulates entering the atmosphere. As well as options like lobbying local politicians to take action or choosing to cycle, there are campaign groups working to take on the worst culprits like the car companies that lied about how polluting their engines are.

I went to a meeting on the 7th floor of a building near Old Street and was amazed at how the fog hung heavy and yellow above the city. It reminded me of my great aunt’s living room, where cigarette smoke had stained the ceiling yellow above her chair. I love this city, and I’d prefer the view didn’t make me feel quite so depressed.

I’m pleased to see the council will be launching a consultation on the new plans for width restrictions at Drayton Park and Martineau Road, after the previous disastrously designed scheme on Drayton Park was ripped out, writes Nathan Hill, secretary of Islington Lib Dems, Gillespie Road, Highbury. I hope this means they have learned their lesson.

I share the concerns of residents who want to see measures that prevent heavy goods vehicles using the area as a through route between Blackstock Road and Holloway Road; however, the previous scheme was an ill thought-out and badly designed death-trap that caused accidents reaching into double figures. The council was warned time and time again by the area’s then Liberal Democrat councillors Terry Stacy and Julie Horten that signage at the width restriction was confusing, the layout was muddled and the overall design of the traffic calming measure was dangerous. The measure did nothing but undermine local residents’ confidence in the council’s ability to tackle the issue. So I am pleased to see new plans out for consultation which are better thought out and less confusing. It will be interesting to see the results of the consultation.

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What made the whole fiasco even worse was that, in the six months previous to the width restriction being in operation, the council issued 10,975 fines. This generated nearly half a million pounds for its coffers. Since the restriction was removed (to the clear delight of residents) the council has only managed to refund 1,005 of the people that were fined. The total value of the refund was £68,784.00, meaning that the council retained a nice tidy profit of £430,736. We keep getting told that money at the council is tight, and the council needs to be imaginative in the ways it raises money but this is appalling. The council should have made much more of an effort to refund people their money after scheme was abandoned.

The Gazette is right to describe Water Incorporated as a “little-known charity” in your story “Clerkenwell fire station: Snubbed charity to hand petition to Sadiq Khan” Cllr Paul Convery, Caledonian ward, writes.

But I am disappointed the Gazette has given such publicity to a mysterious charity lacking any track record.

The charity is indignant that Mayor Khan has ignored their demand to purchase the former fire station. Their plan, they say, would prevent it becoming “another faceless block of luxury flats”. But that’s exactly why the mayor has reversed a decision by Boris Johnson to sell off to the highest bidder. The mayor has taken the building off the market because he thinks the historic building could be converted to provide genuinely affordable homes.

And what about this “little-known charity”? Formed in 2006, it secured about £9,000 of donations in its first year. Since then it has raised no money. Curiously, after 10 years of inactivity, it claims to “have no problem stumping up the millions required for the Roseberry Avenue station”.

It turns out they really want the building for redevelopment, mainly as student accommodation. That’s very odd. The charitable purpose of Water Incorporated is “to improve lives in underdeveloped countries by the provision of clean water supplies”. That’s a noble aim, for sure, although other established charities already do this, such as WaterAid. But how exactly does a multi-million development to build student rooms further this charity’s aims?

With no track record of any activity at all, let alone complex property development, this charity now demands the mayor sells it the fire station. I’m not surprised City Hall has “repeatedly snubbed” it.

To Genesis residents in Islington and all north London boroughs, writesTim Leader, Bickerton Road, Holloway.

You are invited to join a friendly, informative tenants’ meeting on February 16 at the Methodist Church in Harlesden, NW10 4ND, from 6.30 to 8.30pm. See you there.