Monday, 28 October 2013

Council mustn't shirk it's public health responsibilities on air pollution

Highbury Greens are delighted to see that Richard Watts, the new Council Leader, recognises the harmful effects of air pollution on Islington residents’ health but was worried by his claim at the recent Air Pollution meeting that "Islington can not go any further on its own".  He was certainly right to say that the Mayor of London should do more to remove diesel vehicles from our roads, but there are plenty of actions that Islington Council can and should take, and his new administration should not shirk its own responsibilities.

A number of possible actions were outlined at the self same meeting by Public Health expert, Lucy Saunders of the Greater London Assembly, who described physical inactivity and air pollution as two of the top things the council could address to deliver the best health outcomes for residents on a range of issues from cancer, lung and heart diseases to obesity.  Summing up her workshop, she described  Islington's streets as "our biggest public health asset" and listed the following actions suggested by residents to increase physical activity levels by encouraging walking and cycling for local trips:

  • managing the borough's roads for the movement of people and not just traffic
  • reducing on-street parking year on year
  • running a "streets for people" health-check on all council policies 

The negative health impact from pollution and traffic danger is worse for those with underlying health conditions and people with low incomes, who often live on the most polluted roads. I'm glad Islington Labour have at last woken up to the health implications of air pollution and look forward to seeing action on this basic issue of fairness.

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