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'Parents say they are looking after their kids but drive in SUVs'

PUBLISHED: 16:46 19 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 23 October 2019

Ark Franklin Academy Primary pupils in June 2018. Picture: Clean Air for Brent

Ark Franklin Academy Primary pupils in June 2018. Picture: Clean Air for Brent

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People are in denial about pollution in Brent simply because they can't see it, claim campaigners.

Chamberlayne Road. Picture: Clean Air for BrentChamberlayne Road. Picture: Clean Air for Brent

Clean Air for Brent say the priority needs to be raising public awareness of pollution dangers as most people have little idea of the health risks.

The charity was formed in 2017 and is run by a small group of volunteers, with a range of backgrounds and expertise from different parts of the borough.

Their mailing list includes 500 local people and organisations who support their aims and want to be kept informed on crucial issues.

They hold public meetings with expert speakers, and lobby councillors from all parties to prioritise air pollution in their local election manifestos.

A pressing issue for the group at the moment is Brent's roads.

The borough contains four out of 10 of London's most polluted roads, according to a report by Friends of the Earth: the North Circular, Harlesden High Street and Dollis Hill Road at the junction with Cricklewood.

Mark Falcon, chair of CAfB, said: "Our biggest priority is reducing all forms of air pollution and traffic is most high profile and potentially most difficult.

"Air pollution, the government says, is the number one health risk, but most people have no idea about that at all.

"A lot of people seem to be in denial: I can't see the pollution so it's not there. Middle class parents who say they are looking after their children drive in large SUVs which are the worst polluters."

In two years' time the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be enforced up to but not including the North Circular.

Cars will have to meet strict emission requirements or face a daily charge to travel.

Mr Falcon said: "One of the biggest things to address in air pollution is the ULEZ. It's not perfect but it terms of our initiatives we very strongly support that.

"What's lacking is there's a lot of posters about the ULEZ but nothing explaining what it's for and what it's trying to solve and why a solution is so important. We need to raise awareness through a mass public information campaign becuase then that in itself will change behaviour.

"It costs nothing to stop idling. When I challenge people to switch off their engines, some tell me their cars are the latest model and exempt from ULEZ and therefore don't cause any pollution. I think there's just ignorance or misunderstanding."

A TfL spokesperson said: "ULEZ goes up to, but doesn't include, the North and South Circular roads. This allows people a clear and navigable boundary to reduce the chance of accidently entering it.

"The benefits of the ULEZ will extend to and beyond the boundary regardless, though.

"We expect a 23 per cent reduction in NOx emissions on the A406 and when we tighten the Low Emission Standards next year NOx emissions outside the boundary will reduce by a quarter."

CaFB is holding its next meeting - Our Children Need Clean Air Now! - on November 12 at 7.30pm at Queen's Park Community School. One of the speakers is air pollution campaigner Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, the mother of Ella Roberta, who died aged nine in 2013 after a severe asthma attack while living next to the South Circular. The pathologist who carried out her post mortem said it was "one of the worst cases of asthma ever recorded in the UK".

In May 2019 her daughter's inquest was re-opened.

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