What will Wanstead look like in a post-COVID-19 world? In the second of a series of articles, Chair of Wanstead Society Scott Wilding, who is exploring these issues as part of his job, offers his thoughts
Dealing with the new normal of a post-COVID-19 world is still a challenge for all of us. The virus has not gone away. People are still dying from this disease. And we all find ourselves coping with the challenges of daily life in many different ways.
Yet, we have to consider what our lives will look like. The below might give an indication of what’s to come.
Pollution and the environment
One of the side effects of lockdown has been better air quality. In the City of London, nitrogen oxide (the most harmful pollutant) fell by 35%, and in London as a whole, some pollutants were down 60%. But with shops and City Airport reopening in June and with those who can being encouraged to drive to work rather than take public transport, we could see a return – or even an increase – in some pollutants.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are indications we can keep the better air quality we have enjoyed. Firstly, many of us have noticed, and liked, the change. And for those with severe lung and breathing difficulties, a reduction in pollution means a better quality of life. Secondly, lockdown gave us all a chance to pause and reassess how we live. The council and TfL are both examining ways in which they can encourage walking and cycling. Wider footpaths and segregated cycle lanes are a must, but investment in existing high streets to make them pleasant places to walk in are also vital. And this leads me to the next point.
The OECD predicts the world economy may shrink by 6% in 2020, with the UK hit hardest. So, it’s clear times are tough for all of us. But many of us have been shopping locally during lockdown and it’s now vital that we continue to support Wanstead High Street as much as we can. Our shops need our custom more than ever or many could face closure.
But the economy and the environment are closely linked. By shopping local, walking or cycling to the shops, we are helping to keep the lower pollution levels we have enjoyed. With many of us working at home, the opportunity to shop local has never been so obvious. A post-COVID-19 world could – hopefully – see a high street renaissance.
This month could see the wider opening of pubs and restaurants across the UK, and Wanstead has some top-quality eating and drinking establishments which need supporting. I’ll definitely be heading to the pubs when they open. And my reason? Go to the pub. Drink beer. Save local businesses. Possibly the only time you will ever get away with that excuse. So, let’s make sure we use it.