St Joseph's School
Pollution from cars has long been a problem outside St Joseph’s Primary School

Greenwich Council has postponed the start of a scheme banning cars around four schools after it gave residents just few days’ notice of the plan.

Two schools in Eltham and one each in Abbey Wood and Greenwich were due to be covered by the programme, which aims to cut pollution levels and make streets safer.

But council officers quickly backtracked after a delay in sending letters to affected residents meant they hadn’t been given enough time to make alternative arrangements for driving to and from their homes.

Residents in Commerell Street, Greenwich, say they only got letters a week before the scheme’s original start date of Monday 15 October. While in Eltham, local councillor Spencer Drury says residents in Grangehill Road were only told on Tuesday 9 October.

Commerell Street
Commerell Street is due to be closed for 90 minutes in the morning and 60 minutes in the afternoon

Now parts of Grangehill Road and Haimo Road in Eltham (Gordon and Haimo schools), and all of Cookhill Road in Abbey Wood (De Lucy) will be closed from Tuesday 30 October. Commerell Street in Greenwich – home to St Joseph’s primary school – is due to join the scheme in November.

The streets will be closed for 90 minutes at the start and 60 minutes at the end of the school day, with only pedestrians and cyclists able to access them.

One Camden Council school in Covent Garden has had its street blocked at the start and end of the school day for 18 months while Hackney and Southwark have also put similar schemes in place in some of their schools.

But while residents in Hackney are able to register for exemption from the scheme if they live in the streets, Greenwich’s scheme needs neighbours to make arrangements with the school if they need to drive in and out of their street.

School Streets letter
Despite the date, residents only received this letter on 8 October

Commerell Street resident Caroline White told 853: “There has been no hint of consultation and some of us received no communication at all. A few of us had letters through the door on Monday 8th October – dated ‘September 2018’.

“Now it’s going to be delayed to allow people to ‘make alternative arrangements’ – though unless they can find a helicopter I fail to see how we sole traders can find other ways to exit our streets.”

Commerell Street
Commerell Street is one of the few streets in east Greenwich that is already partially blocked off to cars

Commerell Street is just a few hundred yards from the site of the proposed cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf, which Greenwich Council gave planning permission despite fears of pollution from berthed liners burning dirty fuel. The street is already blocked in half by bollards outside a side entrance to Robert Owen nursery school and Christ Church primary school.

White added: “We’d all like cleaner air and healthier children – wouldn’t it have been great if our council had not agreed to the cruise liner terminal – but the parents won’t walk because of a 50-yard blockade, they’ll simply back up at the end of the road and cause gridlock there instead.”

She also raised concerns that pollution levels outside St Joseph’s School would not be monitored.

853 understands that council officers have blamed “delays in distribution” for residents receiving the letters so late.

Council leader Danny Thorpe told 853 in a statement: “This week we are focusing on information and engagement, with banners being erected and postcards available for schools to hand out to parents and residents. We have listened to the feedback we have received so far and the bollards themselves will go up outside three of the four schools after half term, and outside St Josephs a few weeks later, to give people more time to make alternative arrangements.

St Joseph's School
A banner outside the school encourages families to walk, cycle or use the bus

“The trial is a live consultation allowing the council to see how the closures work and gives residents, parents and pupils six months to feed back. Their views will inform our decision on whether to amend the school street or make them permanent.

“Even though most children live within walking distance, the roads outside schools are still choked with cars every morning and afternoon, which is dangerous for everyone. Some people may still choose to drive to school but School Streets will mean the traffic is not concentrated outside the school gates. We’re also working with the schools to ensure that disabled people in cars and emergency vehicles will still be able to get in and out.

“We will install air quality monitoring equipment outside the School Streets schools.”

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