education

Roads to be closed around Newcastle primary schools to create cleaner air


T

he roads outside 11 primary schools in Newcastle will be shut in a bid to make journeys cleaner and safer.

Newcastle City Council announced it would trial temporary street closures at drop-off and pick-up times, preventing parents from parking close to the school gates.

The School Streets scheme will run from this summer across the city and is expected to reduce air pollution, increase road safety and ease parking troubles felt by people living nearby.

Headteachers hope by closing roads for short periods, children will feel safer walking, scooting or cycling to school.

Northumbria Police has welcomed the idea and said it will work with the council to monitor and enforce the restrictions.

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Kevin McVittie, headteacher of Hotspur Primary in Heaton, which is taking part in the scheme, said roads around his school could become very congested.

He said: “The scheme also builds on the messages about healthy living that we give to children in school by further encouraging walking, cycling or scooting to school.”

Ben Wassall, headteacher at Chillingham Road Primary School, said: “This is a huge step in the right direction and will reassure our many families and children who walk, bike, scoot or skate their way to school.

“Moreover, this will improve the air quality for all of us at Chillingham Road and finally banish pavement parking and idling from outside our school.”

Councillor Arlene Ainsley, the council’s cabinet member for transport and air quality, said similar schemes had been brought in elsewhere.

She said: “We’ve consistently wanted to launch School Streets here but haven’t been given the same powers as places like London, so need to rely on support from the police.”

Sergeant Jane Munro, of Northumbria Police’s road safety team, said: “We welcome the introduction of this trial as we work with partners to find innovative ways to reduce the number of serious collisions and keep pedestrians safe.

“Unfortunately, despite our warnings, motorists continue to drive irresponsibly near many of our region’s schools and so it would be wrong if we did not explore these kinds of measures.”

The council said the School Streets programme would see vehicles stopped from using roads between the hours of 8am and 9.30am and between 2.30pm and 4pm, but that access would be permitted for residents and blue badge holders.

A study released in February showed air pollution from fossil fuels could account for nearly one in five deaths around the globe.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research, found the pollution from fossil fuel burning accounted for about 10 million premature deaths in 2012, with the largest number of lives cut short in China and India.

However, the number of deaths worldwide associated with fossil fuel burning fell to 8.7 million in 2018, the study estimated, following significant improvements in air quality in China.

A separate study in December found pollution levels across the UK were higher than they were before the coronavirus pandemic, putting millions of people at higher risk.

The analysis by the Centre for Cities think tank found toxic air was set to rise significantly when coronavirus lockdown measures are eased further. It suggested that while the spring lockdown reduced nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels by 38 per cent on average across 49 cities and large towns, they subsequently rose again in the second half of the year as activity increased.

As a result, NO2 levels have now hit or exceeded pre-pandemic levels in around 80 per cent of places studied during the second half of 2020. The gas can damage the lungs and also mix with water to form acid rain.

Additional reporting by Press Association



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