Regular readers of this blog will be well aware that we have been campaigning for some time on the issue of air pollution caused by the Westway flyover, and have repeatedly raised the particular issue of dangerously high air pollution levels at the Westway Sports Centre. It is a matter of fact (and of record) that RBKC and Westminster are the two most polluted boroughs in the UK. We therefore urgently need a fresh approach from RBKC that puts air pollution at the top of its policy and political agendas in planning, road transport and public health.
The map above, which we have chosen to illustrate today’s blog, shows the Westway traversing the part of North Kensington to the west of Ladbroke Grove. It clearly shows that the air pollution levels in the immediate vicinity of the flyover breach the air pollution limits allowed under European Law. It also shows clearly that the worst pollution blackspots are at the exact location of the Westway Sports Centre.
This means that the highest risks apply to users of this largely outdoor sports complex, many of whom are children, not least the children of Lancaster West Estate, who were left with no option but to use replacement football pitches provided for them at this location when their much loved facilities at Lancaster Green were destroyed, along with the rest of Lancaster Green, to make way for the monstrous overdevelopment now known as the Kensington Aldridge Academy. It was this crime against the residents of Lancaster West, and the children who played on Lancaster Green, that first awakened us to the air pollution problems at the Westway Sports Centre.
In the summer of 2014 The Grenfell Action Group collaborated with the Green Westway project to measure air pollution in the area west of Ladbroke Grove (including the Westway Sports Centre). This was part of the “Mapping for Change” Citizen Science Project sponsored by University College London. The study lasted for just one month, but we subsequently discovered that RBKC had reacted to our earlier criticisms by secretly ordering their own longer term study, which confirmed our results and more than vindicated our efforts. Neither RBKC nor the Westway Trust published the highly embarrassing results of the longer term study, but we eventually found out about it, and acquired the results, through Freedom of Information legislation. We then immediately published this information under the title “Westway Air Pollution Scandal – Shocking New Revelations!”
We highly recommend to our readers that they visit the Green Westway site where they can read more about this project and about the wider objectives of Green Westway.
The Green Westway campaign seeks to reconfigure the local community’s relationship with the Westway by placing the people living in the vicinity of the flyover at the heart of a dialogue over its future. This means promoting community spaces beneath the flyover and addressing the air and noise pollution generated by this hangover of 1960s planning.
As this is a community campaign Green Westway wants to hear from local people with their views on how we can go about improving the Westway. You can get in touch via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter – @greenwestway
On a closing note, our readers might be interested to know that we prevailed upon our local MP, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, to write to the leader of the Council, Nick Paget-Brown, informing him of the outcome of the air pollution study on which we had colllaborated and challenging him to explain the longstanding negligence of both the Council and the Westway Trust on this issue. Mr Paget-Brown replied on 21st November 2014. Most of what he said was unhelpful and some of it could best be described, in our opinion, as utter gobbledygook. Indeed we believe it highly unlikely that Paget-Brown actually wrote a single word himself, as the letter bears (unsurprisingly) all the telltale signs of the kind of gobbledgook typically produced to order by some minion in the Environment Department, the point being not to answer our criticisms, but to supply Rifkind with a reply that would enable him to claim he had done his bit, and then wash his hands of the matter. We reproduce below what we believe to have been the most telling passage from Paget-Brown’s letter:
For what it’s worth, the Chair of the Government’s Environment Audit Committee said on air pollution:
“New figures suggest air pollution could be killing almost the same number of people as smoking in the UK, yet government seems unwilling to put saving lives before economic growth….. Children growing up near busy roads with high NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and particle emissions have stunted and impaired lung development. Over 1,000 schools are only 150 metres away from major roads. Protecting children and vulnerable people in the worst affected areas must be made a priority.”
We can see no sign in Paget-Brown’s reply to Rifkind, nor have we subsequently seen, that RBKC has any intention of prioritising this vital issue in any meaningful way. All the more reason to actively support Green Westway in the search for whatever practical solutions might be achievable, and to increase the pressure on Paget-Brown and his cabinet cronies to start taking this matter a lot more seriously than they have done so far. Clearly lives depend on it!