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Canalside walk ruined by choking fumes from boats

17 February, 2017

• SOMETHING’S wrong when walking along Copenhagen Street on a forecast high-air-pollution day with a toddler in a buggy is considered the healthier alternative to a Regent’s Canal-side stroll, west from Angel Tunnel to King’s Cross Granary Square. But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday. Fortunately, as gambled, road traffic was low in comparison to the endless weekday flow.

The previous day’s walk in the opposite direction was ruined by diesel and wood-burning fumes – from the popular but polluting Word on the Water bookboat (apparently Stephen Fry is an admirer) as far as the tunnel.

A worker in hi-vis – working in the square or along the canal, perhaps? – said the emissions were choking him. The following day, the 22-month-old toddler in my care had developed a cough – this may have been a coincidence but she didn’t arrive in that state.

So what are Islington Council and the Canal and River Trust (CRT) doing with the funds granted them last summer by Defra (the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to instal electric charging-points at the borough’s moorings?

Are they squabbling among themselves – the CRT is responsible for the waterway and towpaths, the council for the public health of its residents? Whatever the reason for the delay, if this is a time-limited sum of money it may need spending before April 1. So they’d better get on with the job in hand: cleaning up the highly polluted air along this stretch of water.

Though electricity supply would reduce diesel and generator usage, it seems it won’t help with heating – the biggest source of pollution from stationary boats – as most barges aren’t equipped to use the points.

Splitting the grant between installing charging bollards and upgrading the boats where necessary is, therefore, the obvious way ahead. People need homes – especially in our hyper-inflated house-price borough – and most Islington moorings are residential, so this would be public money well spent, particularly as the boaters’ very presence has increased security in the area. (Does anyone remember when a mother was attacked and her baby in a buggy thrown into the water?)

The responsible bodies have already squandered the warmer summer months, when pollution was lower, to instal the electricity supply. Time, now, to get on with it so that locals and visitors can enjoy a waterside walk without endangering their and their children’s health.

Ellington Street, N7


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