The roll-out of Redbridge Council’s School Streets scheme across the borough and in Wanstead will provide a safer environment for our kids, argues Councillor Jo Blackman (Wanstead Village, Labour)
The unprecedented Coroner’s Court ruling in December 2020 that air pollution made a material contribution to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah was a stark reminder of the devastating impact of air pollution on children and vulnerable people. The direct link between car emissions, air pollution and death and ill health means we have a responsibility to do all we can to reduce air pollution around schools.
This is why Redbridge Council has been consulting on the roll-out of a series of School Streets. These are where temporary restrictions on vehicles are introduced at school drop-off and pick-up times on a small number of roads around a school – usually for an hour at the start and end of each school day. The scheme discourages drivers from taking non-essential journeys through the roads covered by the scheme at these times.
School Streets are enforced by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras with penalties of £65 (if paid within 14 days) and £130 (if paid after 14 days). Free exemptions are available for vehicles used by residents and businesses that are located within the school street, deliveries, health and social care visits and for children with a disability who attend the school. Emergency vehicles are, of course, automatically exempt.
As well as reducing levels of air pollution at school entrances, School Streets protect children from traffic at the school gate. I have seen first hand the real risks to children’s safety caused by school-run traffic and we know that residents are also concerned about excessive school traffic on their streets and poor parking.
The scheme also aims to encourage more children to walk and cycle to school. The initiative is accompanied by measures to promote sustainable and active travel through a school Travel Plan, backed by the TfL Stars (Sustainable Travel: Active, Responsible, Safe) scheme. Measures can include infrastructure, such as cycle shelters, cycling courses, walking maps and pupil engagement, such as themed lessons. Evidence shows that School Streets reduce traffic and increase active travel levels.
Following successful pilot School Street locations (Fairlop Primary, Saints Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary and Gordon Primary Schools), consultations are now taking place for schemes around 10 additional schools across Redbridge, including five in the Wanstead and Woodford area, with more in the pipeline. All rsidents are encouraged to contribute to the consultation (open until 14 February) to help shape this scheme.
As we look forward to a time when our children can return to school and mix with their friends again, let’s hope we can also give them a safer environment.
For more information on Redbridge School Streets, visit wnstd.com/schoolstreets