Protesters demanding the controversial Silvertown Tunnel be scrapped have been picketing outside the Department for Transport in Westminster in a campaign against fossil fuel licensing.

Demonstrators from Hackney and neighbouring Tower Hamlets set up banners today (April 21) as part of a four-day campaign by Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth calling for an end to new fossil fuel projects.

The protests follow a report from Imperial College London, which was commissioned by the Greater London Authority, on the impact of air pollution across all stages of life.

This included low sperm count and increased miscarriage to chronic illness, cancer, strokes and effects on mental health.

Hackney Gazette: Picketing to clean up London's air

The Hackney and Tower Hamlets protesters want plans scrapped for the proposed Silvertown Tunnel and are demanding expansion of public transport with lower fares and London’s air pollution kept within limits set by the World Health Organisation.

“We shouldn’t need to be doing this,” Hackney and Tower Hamlets Extinction Rebellion organiser Madeleine Bailey said. “But the government isn’t acting swiftly enough to address the climate and health impacts of the fossil fuel economy.

“Transforming our transport system would tackle one of the biggest sources of emissions and improve people’s lives whose health is harmed by toxic air.”

Hackney Gazette: Pickets against Silvertown Tunnel plans outside Department of Transport

Work began on the tunnel, which will connect Newham and Greenwich, last year but has faced fierce opposition from critics who fear it will worsen air pollution.

Newham councillors also supported a motion urging the project to be axed last year.

A spokesperson for London mayor Sadiq Khan has previously said the Silvertown Tunnel would help tackle congestion and poor air quality around the Blackwall Tunnel without increasing the amount of traffic crossing the Thames.

2020 government data said transport produces a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions - making it the largest emitting source in the country, campaigners point out.

The four-day protest that began this morning in Parliament Square continues tomorrow on Earth Day with a “family-friendly march for biodiversity”, then on Sunday a “Running Out of Time” protest coexisting with the London Marathon, returning on Monday to a peaceful demo outside Parliament.

The campaigners cite nine-year-old Ella Adoo-Kissik-Debrah who died in 2009 from an asthma attack living near the South Circular Road in Lewisham.

An inquest found air pollution “made a material contribution” to her death. Ella was the first person in Britain to have air pollution listed as the cause on her death certificate.

The Department for Transport was contacted for comment.