South London parish’s children draw up ‘clean-air pledge’

09 June 2017

ST ANSELM’S, KENNINGTON

Healthy interest: children at a Carnival4CleanAir, held outside St Anselm’s, London, on 8 May

Healthy interest: children at a Carnival4CleanAir, held outside St Anselm’s, London, on 8 May

CHILDREN from St Anselm’s, Kennington Cross, in south-east London have urged the main political party leaders to sign their “clean air pledge” to tackle air pollution in the capital. The parishes of North Lambeth are thought to have some of the worst levels of air pollution in London.

On the announcement of a General Election, last month, 14 children set to work to compose a simple pledge, committing the leaders to publishing a new clean-air Act within the first 100 days of forming a new government.

Within a week, national representatives from the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green, and Women’s Equality parties all visited St Anselm’s to sign the pledge. The Conservatives have since declined to meet the children, or sign the pledge.

Scarlett, aged eight, who wrote to the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said: “When we walk to school on busy roads every day, I am worried about the impact of air pollution on my brother’s lungs and on my lungs.”

The Team Rector of North Lambeth, Canon Angus Aagaard, has placed a billboard of the pledge on the front of the church, facing the traffic, which he says is often stationary. “The children of the parish have raised an issue that warrants attention by each party leader. It is right for the Church that we should be supporting this call.” 

The chairman of the governors of Archbishop Sumner C of E Primary School, Adam Matthews, who is a churchwarden of St Anselm’s and has three young children, expressed “deep concern” over the health impact of the 45,000 vehicles a day estimated to pass through the local roads.

The governors are considering providing guidance to parents about the use of face masks for children who are unable to change their route into the school, which is set back from the road.

“The children do not have a vote in this election,” he said. “It is the responsibility of this generation of politicians to take action that will directly impact these children’s health.”

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has campaigned for cleaner air since he took office. He condemned the Government’s long-awaited air-pollution plan as “woefully inadequate” last month, and warned that the problem of toxic air was “a matter of life and death”.

More than 40,000 people a year in the UK are estimated to die prematurely as a direct result of air pollution.

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