Friday, April 18, 2014

Pollution, Convoys Wharf, trees and Sayes Court Garden

London's high levels of pollution are in the news this week: 457 pollution-related deaths in just one year in Lewisham, Lambeth, Southwark and Wandsworth, says Public Health England, as this South London Press story reports.

As previously reported on this blog, we already know that air pollution on Evelyn Street/Creek Road (A200) is well above EU limits (thanks to the No to Silvertown campaign for exposing unpublished Greenwich Council results). As with the issue of tall buildings (see previous post), it comes too late for Convoys Wharf.

Now that the Convoys Wharf development has got the go-ahead, the construction – when it starts – will significantly contribute to ever worsening conditions for local people living, working or going to school on or near the A200. Proposed river use for the transportation of building materials is still being negotiated, but even if that solution was embraced by the developer (they will try to avoid it), it would mostly be waste material. There will still be an enormous amount of materials that will have to brought by road to build 3500 flats.

When complete, the development's proposed 1800 parking spaces will further raise pollution levels – unless its inhabitants and visitors are all driving electric cars by then. Those living on the waterfront in its luxury flats will benefit from very low levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon poisoning, as do most waterfronts.

Of course, with a predictable lack of vision and adherence to their own London Plan, polluting thousands of people was not a particularly important consideration for the GLA or Boris Johnson when deciding on the Convoys application, so keen were they to pass it.

Nor did they grasp the importance of the Sayes Court Garden project in alleviating such conditions in the local environment.

One of the biggest influences for the Sayes Court Garden project is John Evelyn's radical and influential "Sylva – A Discourse of Forest Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in his Majesty's Dominions", first published in 1662. Evelyn's ideas are still relevant today, and one in particular – growing trees to purify the London air.

Last week, "The New Sylva" was published to great acclaim and press coverage. As the BBC's environment reporter, Mark Kinver, writes, "Today, trees are back in the headlines and on the political agenda. To coincide with the original book's 350th anniversary, two authors have written The New Sylva, a timely updated version for the 21st Century to highlight the strategic, economic and ecological importance of trees".

Airpocalypse now! shouted the Evening Standard on Wednesday in their inside pages and asked "how do we prevent airmageddon?".

Not much chance of that, with Boris in charge and the Evening Standard being funded by developers. Like housing targets (now extended over 20 years rather than 10), it's a moveable feast, with far, far fewer hybrid buses introduced so far than promised. An 'Ultra-Low Emission Zone' is proposed but not until 2020. Diesel powered black cabs are thought to contribute to one fifth of London's particle emissions. Oh! how long have we waited for black cabs to operate in this area, only to find they're death chariots!

In February, local campaigners from Don't Dump on Deptford's Heart took part in a Citizen's Air Quality Survey, assisted by the Network for Clean Air, together with the No to Silvertown campaign. The results will be published shortly. Unfortunately, the data took over two months to be analysed, which was all too late to provide evidence to the government Planning Inspectorate consultation on the Thames Tunnel, and too late to show Boris and the GLA what a disaster awaits north Deptford when Convoys Wharf is being built.

In Greenwich, campaigners have lost the battle to save the trees on Bardsley Green on Creek Road opposite St Alfege's School. The five mature trees they hoped to save (which they spiked with non-ferrous iron in an attempt to foil the proposed felling) have been chopped down to make way for a new development. Undaunted, the campaigners have planted new trees.

In Lewisham, a 20's Plenty For Us petition has just been handed in to the Town Hall to make every road have a 20mph speed limit. If that seems a bit extreme to you (as it does to us), check the campaign's Myth busting page and they have an answer to the pollution question too.

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