The health of hundreds of residents in a council block in Fitzrovia is being put at risk because their street has been left out of the Mayor of London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone and will have increased motor traffic from a new road scheme designed by Camden Council.
Residents living at 30-40 Grafton Way will suffer the double whammy of being excluded from the Mayor’s 24/7 pollution control this April and face an increase in vehicle fumes from displaced road traffic from Camden Council’s £35m West End Project to convert Tottenham Court Road and Gower Street to two-way working when it is completed in spring 2020.
The street is part of the busy Euston Circus road system which means drivers coming from the east who want to go north are directed along part of Grafton Way. The road design is a heavily polluted leftover from the 1960s and Camden Council and the Mayor of London have failed to bring it into the 21st century by getting rid of the gyratory, despite spending millions on laying granite paving stones imported from China to cajole shoppers into the nearby Tottenham Court Road.
Jo Hurford who lives in the Camden owned block on Grafton Way told Fitzrovia News that the council has ignored residents concerns about air quality and done nothing to address the problem.
“I have been trying to get the Council to listen to me since I first went to a meeting about the Project in 2014.
“I told them that the potential for life-limiting health impacts on Grafton Way residents should mean the West End Project is rethought, or at a minimum some kind of mitigation is offered for residents like air filtration.
“The Council say some areas will get better air and some much worse, they’ve looked at the picture from a distance and claim an ‘overall’ improvement, but this is not how it works in terms of human health. If you make traffic flow heavier in Grafton Way pollution will increase and residents will suffer even more than they are already,” she said.
Camden claims its scheme will reduce overall traffic in the West End Project area and improve conditions for cyclists on Gower Street. But the council has been criticised because businesses and shoppers on Tottenham Court Road will gain at the expense of many residential side streets which, like Grafton Way, will see increased motor traffic according to traffic modelling published in 2014.
Nitrogen Dioxide, a gas that causes respiratory problems, is already above the legal limit on Grafton Way according to measurements taken by residents. The street is also likely to have very high levels of particulate matter which can cause strokes and heart disease. Both pollutants are generated from either motor vehicle exhausts or from tyre and brake wear.
The Grafton Way Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) says Camden is failing in its duty to protect its residents.
“The TRA is very concerned at the potential impact this development will have on the lives and health of our 274 residents. Many are elderly or very young and vulnerable.”
They say Camden is failing to take action on the air in the street despite a 2017 report from the UK’s Chief Medical Officer which states that local authorities “can take powerful action to address and avoid negative health impacts from pollution”.
The lack of action by Camden also comes at the same time as the publication of its draft Clean Air Action Plan.
Grafton Way residents will also be excluded from any benefits from the Mayor of London’s air pollution cutting measures because the street despite being within the inner ring road is designated as part of the Euston Circus traffic interchange.
Drivers travelling along Grafton Way between Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road don’t have to pay the congestion charge, and won’t encounter the ULEZ charge when it comes into force in April.
While other streets south of the Euston Road will benefit from the Mayor’s ULEZ scheme Grafton Way will have to wait until the ULEZ is expanded in a few year’s time. But there are no plans to expand the congestion charge zone. Black-cab drivers don’t have to pay the congestion charge and will be exempt from paying the ULEZ charge.
The council tenants and leaseholders want the street removed from the gyratory and included in the congestion charge and ULEZ. They want drivers heading north to be directed along the Euston Slip Road next to the Euston Underpass instead of around the block and past their windows and front doors.
A spokesperson for Camden commented on the traffic analysis that had been done.
“During the development of the West End Project, traffic modelling and survey work was undertaken to assess the impact of the project across the area including the side streets. These predicted that the implementation of the project would lead to a reduction of traffic across the wider area with improvements on the majority of side streets in addition to the main routes. The modelling does however, also indicate an increase in traffic on certain side streets. As with all traffic schemes the impacts will be monitored and consideration given to mitigation measures where appropriate.
“Camden is fully committed to review the scheme 12 months after completion. The predicted increase in traffic on the side streets may in fact only occur at peak hours and as the network will be generally quieter at other times, these side streets may still receive a net reduction in traffic over the whole day,” they said.
Adam Harrison, cabinet member for improving Camden’s environment, said: “The West End Project will cut motor traffic in the area by up to a quarter, bringing numerous benefits in terms of air pollution, noise and congestion. In addition, I continue to support the removal of Grafton Way from the Euston Circus gyratory. It is clearly inappropriate to have a residential block and a hospital surrounded by a busy gyratory.”
Cllr Harrison’s comments puts the Labour council at odds with the Labour Mayor and Transport for London who have no plans to remove the gyratory.
A TfL spokesperson said: “The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will clean up London’s toxic air in central London and the surrounding areas beyond the ULEZ boundaries. Areas on the cusp of the ULEZ, like Fitzrovia, will see more low-emission buses and cars on the road than currently. Emissions from cars, vans and HGVs in areas outside the ULEZ are expected to reduce by more than 10 per cent. We will also expand ULEZ further to the North and South Circulars in 2021, which will improve the air quality around London even more.”