Perhaps it is forgotten in the mists of Croydon Labour leader Tony Newman’s failing memory, but four years ago he was preparing a manifesto ahead of the 2014 Town Hall elections which included a number of pledges on the state of the environment, and which stated, in bold print, “Croydon Labour is ambitious to make Croydon the cleanest and greenest borough in London.”
It went on to say, “A Labour council will improve our local environment and make Croydon a more pleasant place in which to live, work, shop and visit.”
And Newman’s manifesto also mentioned the incinerator being built at Beddington Lane, and which is being part paid for by the Council Tax-payers of Croydon. Then, they said that “a truly green council would never support the building of an incinerator that will be a potential health risk on its border, particularly one so close to residential areas”.
Since winning those 2014 local elections, Newman’s Labour group has continued, as part of the South London Waste Partnership, to “support” the development of the Viridor incinerator which is “so close to residential areas” in Croydon. It has done nothing to halt the incinerator.
And in the past year, the council has approved the spending of millions of pounds of public money to build primary schools next to two of the most toxic of polluted roads in South London, the A23 Purley Way and the A232 at the Croydon Flyover, potentially blighting the health of thousands of Croydon children throughout their lives. Croydon Council’s part in building schools on this sites might be seen to amount as corporate negligence.
Meanwhile, Newman’s Labour council has continued to drive through (pun intended) private developments which can only increase the volume of traffic coming into Croydon town centre and so make our already badly polluted air even worse.
Of course, there are matters of macro policy about which the council can do very little. But even at a micro level, such as policies to reduce the distance of pupils’ journeys to schools and discouraging car use on the school run each day, have been left untouched by Croydon’s “greenest borough in London”.
Earlier this month, George Monbiot, the environmental writer and columnist in The Guardian, wrote a column called “Car Sick”, about the welter of deadly health problems we are creating for future generations just by allowing kids to be driven to school.
With Croydon Council about to review its policy on air quality and pollution, it might help Newman and the borough’s planning and roads departments to read what Monbiot had to say. It might finally shock them into action.
“By driving them to school and by sitting in our cars with the engines idling, we are helping to poison our own children,” Monbiot wrote.
He listed some of the things which we know now can harm young, developing children.
- It can damage the growth of their lungs. This means that the lungs of children who have been affected don’t work so well. The damage can last for the rest of their lives.
- It raises the risk of asthma and allergies. For children who already have asthma, pollution can make it worse.
- It can damage the development of their brains. Air pollution can reduce children’s intelligence, making it harder for them to learn.
- It can change their behaviour and reduce their happiness. Air pollution has been linked to anxiety, depression and Attention Deficit Disorder.
- It raises the risk of heart disease later in their lives.
- It can cause cancer, both in children and when they become adults.
- Unborn children can also be affected by the pollution their mothers breathe. Air pollution is linked to babies being born prematurely and small.
- Pollution inside your car can be much worse than pollution outside, because the fumes are concentrated in the small space.
The parents of children consigned to attend the Harris primary academy on the Purley Way – with the convenient drop-off point in a supermarket car park at Five Ways, helpfully arranged by Croydon Council’s planning department – or to go to the new school to be built next to the Croydon Flyover, may want to consider such points and raise them with Newman or his cabinet colleague responsible for the air quality review, Stuart King.
And they might ask them how the council’s planning policies are in any way helping to make Croydon “the greenest borough in London”.
- This is the latest in an occasional series which will compare Croydon Council’s claims of “delivery” with the reality. If you would like to suggest other examples which highlight how council claims fail to match reality, email the editor at the address below
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