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Gazette letters: Climate change, Finsbury Park to Highbury Fields Cycleway consultation, recycling and SCOOT

PUBLISHED: 08:30 10 August 2019

Reminders in Bordeaux, France about how important it is to mitigate the impact of climate change. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

Reminders in Bordeaux, France about how important it is to mitigate the impact of climate change. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

Nicola Baird

I was in Bordeaux the day before this French port city recorded its highest ever temperature (41.2C on July 23), writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

It was a nightmarishly sweaty wait in 37C before catching a train back to Paris and the air-conditioned comforts of Eurostar. Crossing a steaming Paris, the Metro staff gave passengers free bottles of water and mini fans - presumably to stop people falling ill.

They needed to: back in 2003 a combination of high temperatures and air pollution on just one August night led to as many as 3,000 Parisians dying early. Heat is really tough on the 75+, those who are ill and babies. Since then European solutions for dealing with hot weather include planting trees, removing traffic from city centres (Bordeaux has already done this, Paris has had a better go than London) and creating free to use public cool-off spaces. Cities have emergency heat plans including cool rooms, parks open 24-hours and many water fountains.

In Bordeaux the mirror fountain that romantically reflects the neo-classical sweep of buildings on the Place de la Bourse doubles as a splash pool cooling-off residents and tourists. Cafes use mist sprays on their customers. Rooms in stone and brick buildings are good at staying cooler, unlike the glass-fronted boxes so typical of Islington's newest buildings. Besides, even if air conditioning makes high temperatures bearable, it's not sustainable (or affordable).

Here in Islington we could paint dark buildings white, add grass rooves, plant more trees and stop front gardens being paved. Back in 2010 Islington and the NHS in their Seasonal Health & Affordable Warmth Strategy noted that "heat-related mortality starts in the UK when mean daily temperature exceeds about 18C." As you know the dense buildings of London - an urban heat island - can make Islington nights particularly hot.

The Finsbury Park to Highbury Fields Cycleway Consultation closed on July 15 and many residents, including me, responded critically to a plan that would see several streets virtually closed down for several hours a day because the plan clashed with the closing of Arvon Road to protect Drayton Park School, writes Richard Lucraft, Witherington Road, Islington.

Hadn't the planners noticed?

However, since then, I have realised a more major fault with the scheme. As a regular pedestrian user of the streets affected by the planned cycleway I am increasingly aware of how few cyclists actually use the roads included in the plan. The council claims to have researched cycle use on the route but declined to show me the evidence.

It is difficult not to feel the whole scheme, which originated with Transport for London, is political rather than practical.

No doubt it will add lustre to the mayor of London's green crown but Islington Council will be left to pick up most of the bill for a questionably useful development.

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Another week, another comment in the pages of the local newspapers from Cllr Russell, writes Cllr Gary Heather (Finsbury Park ward), chairman, Islington Labour Group.

This time it is about the attempts by seven North London boroughs (North London incinerator) to cut the amount of non-recyclable waste that is sent to landfill, whilst cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 140,000 tonnes.

The North London Waste Authority's Heat and Power Project will see a new facility replace the old one that was built 50 years ago, whilst creating 2,500 new jobs. Vitally, this new facility is significantly cleaner than the existing one and will operate at 60per cent above the Environment Agency's safe emission standards.

Cllr Russell opposes this new facility, which she is of course free to do. However, if elected officials are going to oppose something, particularly something as significant as how to manage the waste of seven boroughs, it's incumbent upon them to propose some sort of alternative.

Furthermore, readers may have been left with the impression from Cllr Russell's comments that she is the only person that supports recycling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Islington Council's Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee has conducted an indepth review of how recycling rates could be improved, and the council's waste reduction and recycling strategy has recently been out for consultation on how we can achieve this ambition that we all support.

Personally, I wrote a motion in 2009 that went to CWU union conference calling for a green new deal, climate change jobs and "just transition" for workers moving from carbon intensive industries into new jobs in green industries. I also served on the council's scrutiny committee that deals with environmental issues for four years.

Islington Labour's motion to June's council meeting officially declared an environment and climate emergency, committing us to working towards making Islington net zero carbon by 2030. I am proud we took this bold step and look forward to developing more policies and interventions that build on Islington's already impressive record of cutting carbon emissions. Official figures show Islington achieved the 12th highest drop per person for any council area between 2005 and 2017, so we have much to be proud of, whilst recognising there is much more to do.

There's a lot of talk from Cllr Russell about how she is treated on the council, and I agree with her that she must be treated with respect and engaged with on relevant issues affecting the ward she represents. However, that same courtesy should be extended by Cllr Russell. Tackling the environment and climate emergency requires elected representatives to work across political divides.

Mr J E Kirby (Gazette letters) is correct in saying that TfL and London Borough of Islington (LBI) planners have created a lethal flaw in designing the "improvements" at Highbury Corner, writes Tim Sayer MBE, Battledean Road, Highbury.

More than one, in fact. For instance: northbound cyclists from Canonbury Road trying to negotiate the junction are met with three streams of competing traffic - two from Upper Street, and one heading towards it - that are brought to a halt by the traffic lights.

And pedestrians trying to cross from Corsica Street to the Hen and Chickens side of St Paul's Road have to avoid eastbound traffic that has over run the stop line on Highbury Corner and doesn't realise the lights have changed. Cyclists are a problem here, too. Yellow boxes could be the answer, although they might cause confusion with the cycle lanes.

But it's less than a month before SCOOT will be working: the all-singing, dancing, whistle-blowing computerised program that will sort out all vehicular, cycle and pedestrian movements. TfL and LBI are relying on SCOOT. I, and many others, argue that the sheer volume of traffic will defeat it. We shall see.

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