Liberal Democrats are calling for a war on air pollution at the school gates across Gloucestershire and have asked the leader of the County Council to take urgent action.
Councillors Iain Dobie, Angie Boyes and Max Wilkinson say the School Streets initiative will reduce children’s exposure to pollutants as well as introducing more exercise into children’s days. They have therefore written to Cllr Mark Hawthorne, urging him to fund the programme.
Research by Unicef has revealed that during the school run and while at school children are exposed to disproportionately high rates of air pollution while studies led by King’s College found that exposure to air pollution at schools was damaging lung development in children.
At the same time, our county’s children are increasingly suffering from obesity – with nearly a quarter of Gloucestershire’s children judged to be obese.
School Streets, in coordination with the schools and county council, closes the street outside of schools to all vehicles at drop-off and pick up time. Already in use in cities and boroughs across the UK, county and district councillors in Cheltenham want the town to be at the forefront of the initiative. The County Council is being asked to act as the authority responsible for highways and transport.
Speaking in favour of the initiative Max Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cheltenham, who represents Oakley on the Borough Council, said:
“We all like convenience in our everyday lives, but the school run leaves behind a raft of toxic fumes that affect children in the vicinity – both inside cars and on the street. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution, which is linked to chest problems in later life and in some instances is irreversible. I know that parents will want to prevent harm to their children and their classmates.
“That is why we are insisting that the County Council provides the investment to bring the School Streets initiative to Cheltenham and wider Gloucestershire. The stakes really could not be higher – it’s children’s long-term wellbeing.”
From the County Council, Cllr Iain Dobie (Leckampton and Warden Hill) said:
“The benefits of School Streets go beyond just cleaner air and exercise. The initiative also transforms hectic and congested school roads into safe and pleasant environments during drop-off and pick up times.
“As more schools and parent groups are becoming aware of the damage of air pollution to children and young people, the County Council needs to invest the time and resources into working with schools to make this available to any school in Gloucestershire that wants to get involved.”
Cheltenham Borough Cllr Angie Boyes (Charlton Kings) added:
“Our county’s schools are meant to be places of learning and safety, yet many children, before they’ve even arrived, are inhaling highly polluted air which is putting them at risk of lung disease in adult life and even early death.
“We want Cheltenham to lead the way in the county’s attempts to tackle air pollution around schools, and are urging Cllr Hawthorne to provide the resources to allow us to get this initiative off the ground.”