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Neighbourhoods already suffer from late night noise and pollution

07 July, 2017

• IT is shocking that Peter Hartley dismisses the denial of access to Oxford Street for people with disabilities and mobility problems as merely inconveniencing a minority (Pedestrianisation of Oxford Street is the only safe way forward, Letters June 23).

There would rightly be a major outcry if he were talking about other minorities being excluded in the same way. Why is it all right for him to hold this attitude to people with mobility problems?

And no, Mr Hartley, not even if Transport for London were to wield the entire stock of magic wands from Ollivander’s in Diagon Alley would the Oxford Street traffic magically vanish from the centre of London.

This scourge, as Mr Hartley puts it, is not to be “filtered out” or removed from residential areas. On the contrary, it is to be shifted into these neighbourhoods, that already suffer enough from jams and pollution.

Mr Hartley patronisingly explains to the 20,000 plus residents who will host this extra traffic that they already have traffic and have failed to do anything to reduce it.

This silly accusation is offensive denigration of the efforts of the residents’ associations and individuals in the affected areas who have long fought to protect residents from noise and air pollution, from all-night deliveries and servicing noise, and other environmental health hazards.

It is all very well for Mr Hartley, living as he does out in the relative peace of St John’s Wood, to speak so lightly of lifting restrictions on all-night deliveries. Noise pollution and the effects of sleep disruption and deprivation are a major public health problem of this century.

Allowing all-night deliveries, and the other associated noise problems that will accompany this, will seriously affect the health of central London residents, in particular of children. Health impacts of noise pollution are well documented.

To have sleep interrupted or disturbed night after night by noisy deliveries is exhausting. What about the costs to the NHS and to employers, London businesses?

Mr Hartley also tells residents that they “do not live on an island”. But we do live on an island, one where the principles protecting the very habitability of residential and mixed areas are being abandoned in favour of the road freight lobby’s desire for greater profits, and to compensate for the weakness of the Ultra Low Emission Zone proposals.

The principle of balance between commercial interests and residential quality of life is being deliberately abandoned. After decades of governments’ insistence that city centres must include residential populations, this is a major betrayal of residents of the heart of London.

Of course Oxford Street needs solutions but shoppers are only exposed to Oxford Street noise and air pollution for a few hours at a time, mostly not even daily, whereas residents will live with the health-damaging air and noise pollution all the time, children included.

The choice is not just between pedestrianisation and doing nothing, however. TfL’s plans do not have to include blighting residents’ lives by permitting all-night deliveries. Instead the mayor’s ULEZ proposals could be made strong enough to reduce air pollution without resorting to this.

Why has the GLA not undertaken a comprehensive review of the whole capital, with a view to identifying other areas where world-class retail and leisure activities can be developed to take the pressure off Oxford Street and the West End?

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