Responding to concerns at Bessemer Grange Primary School regarding air pollution, Southwark Council have announced a trial scheme for the closure of Nairn Grove to motor vehicles during the morning and evening school run times. Physical barriers will be installed and the trial will last for the entire Autumn term.

Bessemer Grange stands in one of the least polluted parts of London, situated as it is with extensive playing fields on two sides and almost opposite a nature study area of woodland. There is little through traffic and the school is virtually in a cul de sac.

Many other schools in the Dulwich area are built in far worse places for air quality. For example, both Oakfield and Rosemead schools sit directly on the busy South Circular in Thurlow Park Road and are bounded by Croxted Road and Lancaster Avenue, also both busy roads. Goose Green School in Grove Vale has to contend with constant traffic along Lordship Lane and with the help of the Dulwich Society has install a ‘ Green Wall’ to attempt to combat the pollution. There are numerous other schools similarly exposed to air pollution from passing traffic.

There are voices within the Dulwich Society’s Traffic and Transport Committee which would like to extend the idea of temporary morning and evening road closures to Turney Road, thereby protecting to some extent, Dulwich Hamlet School. However, (so far,) even the most militant member might hesitate to suggest closing Dulwich Village at school run times to protect Dulwich Infants Lake House site which is exposed to high levels of pollution.

So what is to be done? The idea of temporary road closures would exacerbate the frustrations of already harassed car drivers and could well lead to increases in accidents as a result. Furthermore the disruption would be costly in productivity levels and still leave schools in far worse spots still exposed to the harmful effects of car and van emissions.

It is quite clear that local and national government have got to find the right tools to tackle the problem of air pollution at source by legislating for the much earlier scrapping of diesel and older petrol driven cars and vans. The proliferation of vans delivering small items must also be tackled head-on. The growth of online buying is a major contributor to air pollution as all vans used are diesel powered and are not subject as yet to early scrappage. Many of the major online firms employ sub-contracted drivers in a gig economy where inefficient older vehicles are the norm.

While the motor industry appears focused on moving ahead on the production of electric vehicles it still has to overcome the problems of short battery life which limits range and improving the speed of charging which requires the vehicle to be out of action for a lengthy period. And do not expect honesty from the motor industry in what they tell you if recent practice is anything to go by. As you will read in the News section of Journal, electric charging points apparently rank low on both local and national governments lists of priorities, either in requiring them in new builds or on public roads.

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