Recorder letters: MSG Sphere, hungry children, breast screening, shops not homes and Green London

Members of the grassroots Stop MSG Sphere campaign. Picture: Hannah Somerville

Members of the grassroots Stop MSG Sphere campaign. Picture: Hannah Somerville - Credit: Archant

Letters sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Sphere will add to air pollution

Ian Sinclair, McGrath Road, Stratford, writes:

“The question”, the character Alice famously says in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, “is whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

The important question of who has the power to define language is well illustrated by MSG’s proposal to build a giant advertising-laden Sphere in the heart of Stratford, with MSG documents stating the Sphere will be “air quality neutral” in terms of traffic emissions.

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Understandably, many people will presume this description means the traffic associated with the building and operation of the Sphere will not increase pollution in Newham, already “the most polluted borough in the UK” (Newham Recorder, December 2019).

However, this is not the case. “Air quality neutral” is simply a technical planning term which refers to assessing the expected level of traffic emissions of a proposed development against a benchmark of acceptable traffic emissions for a development of the same size.

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In short, MSG’s so-called “air quality neutral” status tells us nothing about the actual impact of the Sphere on air quality in Newham.

In the real world, the Sphere will have a hugely negative effect on air pollution in Newham, with MSG’s November 2019 Environmental Statement predicting the proposed Sphere “will generate 863,590 car movements per year”.

Everybody worried about the already deadly levels of air pollution in Newham and the health of the local community, especially vulnerable members such as young children and older people, should oppose the proposed Sphere.

PM must change course for children

Tulip Siddiq MP, shadow minister for Children and Early Years, writes:

Millions of families face the prospect of losing their livelihoods because the government has lost control of the virus.

Its sink-or-swim plans for support could leave more than one million children at risk of going hungry over the school holidays.

Now is the time to act. Labour will not stand by and let families be the victims of the government’s incompetence.

If Boris Johnson doesn’t change course, we will force a vote this week and give his backbenchers the chance to do the right thing.

Don’t ignore breast screening

Unmesh Desai, London Assembly member for City and East, writes:

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer, but we know that early detection is our strongest tool in significantly boosting the chances of recovery.

Whilst it is understandable that routine assessments had to be paused to allow the NHS to deal with the pandemic at its peak, it is vital that cancer screening capacity is now boosted to both get on top of the backlog and meet the level of demand.

It is a positive start to see reassurances from the NHS that 400,000 screening invitations have been sent out in recent months.

We now need to amplify the message that women should feel confident that they can safely attend these potentially life-saving appointments, amidst the pandemic.

Losing shops to homes not answer

Dr Alison Moore, Londonwide Assembly member, writes:

Amongst the government’s proposals to overhaul our planning system are further attacks on our local shops.

The situation is already stark with the Centre for Retail Research finding that almost 14,000 shops across the country pulled down their shutters for the final time, this year alone.

Despite this, ministers have just pushed through an expansion of permitted development rights, enabling retail and office space to be demolished to give way to flats.

These proposals would also remove democratic control from councillors and bar local people from being able to formally object to these schemes which could permanently transform the face of our communities.

Whilst permitted development projects now have to abide by minimum space standards, they still do not have to be set at an affordable rent or provide outside space for tenants.

More permitted development and the gutting of our high streets is not the solution to our housing crisis. The government must urgently have a rethink on this.

Vote for a truly Green mayor

Sian Berry AM, Green Party candidate for Mayor of London

Heathrow Airport started action in the Supreme Court this month, challenging the decision to send government policy on airports back to the drawing board.

The idea that the greed of one business should override all our futures in this way is outrageous.

But also outrageous is the mayor of London’s continued support for the expansion of Gatwick Airport. Climate change doesn’t care which runway emissions come from, and Sadiq Khan’s claim to be the ‘greenest mayor ever’ falls apart while he keeps supporting new runways in this way.

We are calling on all Londoners who want real climate action to join us in calling on Sadiq Khan to ignore the lobbyists and change his mind on Gatwick, and if he refuses to vote for a real Green mayor in May 2021.

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