Editor's comment: Slogans don't tell full story of roads row
PUBLISHED: 12:14 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:14 01 May 2019
The row about road closures in Stoke Newington has been gaining pace for nearly 18 months.
It will be worrying for the council that the level of detail attached to the CleanAir4Schools argument these days is the stuff of judicial reviews – what was once a largely ideological debate about getting cars off residential streets has morphed into a forensic discussion about the methodology of Cambridge University's air quality experts, whether a small part of Grasmere's playground is or is not currently a car park, and why TfL's new greener buses were included in the number crunching. I don't think the council necessarily thinks it would lose a court case, but nor do I think it wants to fight (or pay for) one, and I suspect this is what lies behind the announcement of a second consultation (p14).
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Despite the Gazette's own tuppence' worth about the merits of the scheme expressed in this column what feels like years ago, one could have been forgiven for thinking public opinion were entirely on the side of the anti-closures lobby, what with their laminated posters and press-friendly photoshoots of kids in gas masks. So it's good to see some of the people the road closures are supposed to directly benefit adding their voices to the conversation, though they may not have anything like the traction of CleanAir4Schools for the simple reason that the latter have managed to frame themselves – a little selectively, if you ask me – as defenders of children's health.
What it boils down to is not so much whether children are important, but whose children are more important – kids across Stoke Newington breathing in fumes all day, or kids at primary schools in main roads; kids now, or their own children in years to come. The status quo is being wrongly presented as an option with no losers; in reality, as with any planning project, there is no way of pleasing everyone, and doing nothing will expose people around CS1 to at least two more years of dangerous driving and toxic air – just as closing the roads will mean kids don't feel the benefit of the greener bus fleet during school hours until 2021.
The only acceptable outcome is for as few cars as possible to be on every road – including Church Street. We, or rather the council, must evaluate every course of action against that urgent goal.