Gazette letters: Emissions, BAME inequality, empty housing and bike hangars

A congestion charge sign in London.

A congestion charge sign in London. - Credit: PA

The Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charge were suspended at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in London when there was concern about key workers’ ability to get to work safely, writes Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member.

However, with the push from government to increase activity, especially construction and manufacturing businesses, I am concerned that London will face polluted gridlock again. The mayor must act now to reinstate the traffic and pollution-controlling ULEZ and CC to protect public health. Bringing these back would reinforce the urgent need to shift travel from motor traffic and public transport to walking and cycling along with the newly widened pavements and temporary bike lanes. Walking and cycling are the only ways to travel that support safe social distancing and make our city fit for the future.

We’re extremely concerned by the emerging evidence of Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on BAME Londoners, writes Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ executive member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion.

Every coronavirus death is a tragedy involving individual factors that are often complex. But the ONS research points to an unmistakable trend – and these appalling figures highlight London’s longstanding health inequalities.

Boroughs are working hard to protect all vulnerable Londoners during this hugely challenging time. We’re engaging closely with local community, faith and voluntary sector leaders to ensure that the specific needs of BAME Londoners are met.

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While boroughs are determined to address these inequalities, we need to see national policy changes on a range of issues – including investment in public health, housing, and welfare – that are essential for building a healthier and fairer London. The Covid-19 pandemic is a clear prompt for a shift in approach.

I wholeheartedly support the sentiments expressed in the letter about the large Tollington Road, N7, property sitting empty whilst evictions and the numbers of rough sleepers  increase and key workers need accommodation near their workplaces during the coronavirus crisis, writes Dr Debbie Humphry, Islington, full address supplied, a human geography lecturer at Kingston University.

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The call for Tollington Road to be brought back into use is symptomatic of a much wider issue. The campaign organisation, Action on Empty Homes, reports that the problem is London-wide with over 70,000 properties empty. With around 4,000 empty properties, Islington has the seventh highest number of all 32 London boroughs.

The campaign is calling for the government to give councils powers to put long-term empty homes into use for health and other key workers near their place of work. It also urges that the many AirBnB and second homes that are currently empty be brought back into use for key workers, particularly whole house lets close to hospitals.

London is at the epicentre of risk for key workers and as Will McMahon, the director of Action on Empty Homes, says: “Local councils should ask homeowners to volunteer their second or habitable long-term empty homes. In a national crisis, where lives are at stake, we need everyone to be ensuring that resources, including housing, are available for use where they are needed most.” 

Many of my students work in the food retail and delivery sector, facing stress and risk to make sure the nation is fed.

We also need to help the increasing homeless population who are clearly evident on our streets, despite the government’s emergency measures. They include the many hospitality workers who have lost their jobs and slipped through the net of government support.

Therefore the lead made by the government and Islington Council on housing so many rough sleepers needs to step up, ensuring more stringent safety measures for the homeless so that the coronavirus crisis can help heal, not exacerbate, this continuing and shocking inequality in one of the wealthiest cities and countries in the world.

Why is someone who lives in one of the 6,000 Islington Council street properties, writes Anita Frizzarin, Wedmore Gardens, Tufnell Park

...charged £107.25 a year (plus £25 for the key) to lock up their bike overnight in a hangar, whereas someone who lives on an estate does it for free?

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