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Opinion: Climate and air quality is an emergency

PUBLISHED: 08:30 17 August 2019

Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture:  Newham Council

Rokhsana Fiaz. Picture: Newham Council

Rokhsana Fiaz

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This world, this country and this borough face a climate and air quality emergency.

It's not a problem. It's not an issue.

It's an emergency. A 999, blue lights flashing, sirens blaring emergency. Which is why we need to act now.

Newham, despite having the lowest car ownership figures in London, has the largest number of deaths attributable to poor air quality with seven out of every 100 deaths every year linked to dirty air.

That's 96 people dying in Newham each year - the worst figure in England.

We cannot allow this to continue.

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Next week Newham Council will reinstate an access restriction pilot scheme at Browning Bridge, East Ham to close major "rat-run" through the borough.

This follows a pause to address the fact that some residents living to the north of the bridge weren't properly updated.

It's clear that the council didn't get everything right in the initial discussions with residents, and having reviewed concerns the council has adjusted the scheme.

Our calculations, based on robust evidence, show the adjustment will have little detrimental effect on the desired improvements to air quality and road safety.

We know the Browning Bridge "rat-run" contributes to some 3,600 vehicles driving through residential roads in a 12-hour period, as drivers take a short cut from Romford Road to High Street North. And guess what? 80percent of these drivers don't even live in our borough.

The Browning Bridge pilot is part of a series of projects to support the shift towards sustainable transport and active travel.

As we improve our sustainable transport infra-structure we will continue to make it tougher for car drivers to use our residential streets as a convenience to shave minutes from journey times.

We'll continue listening to residents, involving them in these important conversations but with the climate emergency facing our planet, but we can't shrink from the responsibility to act to save the planet and humanity.

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