Neighbours accuse Newham Council of silencing them over closure of East Ham rat run
PUBLISHED: 07:50 19 September 2019
Neighbours who want more consultation over the closure of a rat run have accused the council of silencing them.
Time ran out for people who wanted to discuss a six-month pilot scheme restricting vehicles from crossing Browning Road bridge, East Ham, at a Newham Council meeting on Monday, September 16.
Little Ilford and Manor Park residents had demanded to know what research the move was based on. Answers were published at the meeting.
But there were shouts of "the residents have not been allowed to speak", as the meeting ended with five questions about Browning Road still to be discussed.
Things started to heat up after Imran Asghar demanded the local authority explain comments campaigners had branded racist, which Newham has apologised for.
On reducing car use, its local implementation plan (LIP) had singled out minority communities saying Newham faced "some cultural issues" about "the car being seen as a universal symbol of success amongst some minority communities".
On the council's overall air pollution cutting plans, Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: "Doing nothing is simply not an option."
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She explained Newham had the highest rate of deaths due to toxic air, with seven in every 100 attributed to it.
She said: "We need to rethink how we live our lives and travel. Change is always challenging. This issue has proved controversial among different groups of residents.
"But concerns over the changes need to be set in the context of the health crisis caused by our most polluted and congested roads."
It emerged during the meeting that 3,600 drivers used Browning Road bridge as a short cut with "the majority" from outside Newham.
Evidence from the NHS's Newham Long Term Condition Mapping Report shows East Ham North ward, which includes Browning Road, has "significantly high" asthma levels.
Cllr Mas Patel declared Newham was not "anti-car" but "anti-carbon" as he introduced an air quality and climate change report which includes plans aimed at making Newham carbon neutral by 2030 with zero emissions by 2050.
However, Cllr Joshua Garfield said: "We mustn't be pro-car if we're to truly commit to the climate emergency we declared."
Since neighbours protested in July, the Browning Road pilot now allows Little Ilford drivers and some from Manor Park to use the bridge.