Gazette letters: Mist in the Lea Valley, knife crime and air quality

Mist in Millfields Park, Lea Bridge Road. Picture: Will McCallum

Mist in Millfields Park, Lea Bridge Road. Picture: Will McCallum - Credit: Archant

A few days this last week I have woken to find the view from my windows reduced to just a few metres in front of me, writes Will McCallum, of Hackney Wick, head of oceans at Greenpeace.

A dense fog had risen up overnight on the Lea, the bright morning light revealing just a few distant shadows amidst the cloud that surrounded my block of flats.

From the fourth floor not even the river beneath me was visible, joggers identifiable only by the sound of their trainers beating on the towpath. A fitting scene for Halloween. The fog we’ve experienced this week has been “radiation fog” – caused by heat radiating up from the ground overnight and reacting with the cold damp air (such as that found near rivers, especially on clearer nights) to create condensation.

Mist is simply millions or billions of tiny little drops of water which are light enough to be suspended in mid-air. Its name changes to fog when visibility is reduced to less than 1,000 metres. The heat of the rising sun evaporates the moisture and allows us to find our way again.

Peter Ackroyd, in his biography of London, writes evocatively of this mist; the eerie white clouds raising ghosts of the city’s ancient history. An ancient marshland since the end of the Ice Age nearly 12,000 years ago, the Lea Valley retains some of its spooky qualities when this weather descends with broad, open spaces to be found on both sides of the river.

In the still of the fog normally welcoming spaces like Millfields Park and Daubeny Fields are unnervingly empty. Only the shadows of the largest plane trees loom in the horizon. Then all is quickly forgotten as the crisp autumn sunlight transforms them back soon after we wake.


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Before you pick up a knife, think about your family and friends, writes Keeley Burns, mother of Charlie Burns, in response to the killing of Ziggy Owusu,

Get a life and drop the knife.

It’s not just your family and friends you hurt – it’s everyone.

So please think before you pick up that knife and go and use it. Think first.

Charlie Burns was stabbed to death in Hackney in 2014. Keeley now runs the Charlie Burns Foundation in his memory. – ed


Sustainable Hackney are completely opposed to the expansion of Heathrow Airport, writes Philip Pearson, chairman, Sustainable Hackney.

For Londoners, the first consequence will be the hundreds of premature deaths caused by the extra air pollution which will spread right across the city. Construction traffic will blight neighbours for years, causing additional deaths due to traffic accidents and pollution.

Heathrow is also the UK’s largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, bigger even than Drax power station in Yorkshire. The aviation industry seems to have “judged itself too important to make its full contribution” to the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to the highly respected Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Instead, it relies on every other industry to cut emissions.

There’s no evidence the aviation industry can deliver the rapid, deep cuts in carbon emissions required to hold global warming below 1.5C. Even the most optimistic uptake of the most promising technologies, like biofuels, won’t cut the mustard.

Much current travel to and from Heathrow Airport is within the UK or Europe. The infrastructure investment available would be better spent on improved rail services and lower fares, both in the UK and to Europe. Alternative investments like these will create similar numbers of skilled, good paying jobs in construction and in longer term servicing without the health and environmental impacts.

As with all major projects, overruns and hidden costs are inevitable: the stated cost of Heathrow at £17.6 billion, which will supposedly be met by the private sector will, of course, wildly overrun and be underwritten by us the taxpayer.

Just as new road-building stimulates unnecessary car journeys, building a new runway will stimulate demand for unnecessary air travel. The announced expansion of City airport to the east will already mean a huge increase in flights and disruption over inner north-east London. Heathrow is badly situated: prevailing wind patterns from the west guarantee that the extra pollution will be blown our way.

What is there to like about Heathrow’s expansion?