‘Pollution and rat-run’ fury as Mayor backs Highbury Corner overhaul
Politicians celebrate transformation but nearby residents say it’s caused more problems
04 October, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
Mayor Sadiq Khan has his photo taken with politicians and officers who worked on Highbury Corner
LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan cut a ribbon at Highbury Corner proclaiming a successful project despite fury from some nearby residents who say the multi-million-pound regeneration has caused chaos in their streets.
The Mayor of London swept into Islington on Wednesday morning for a photo opportunity at the newly transformed junction alongside council leader Richard Watts and environment chief Councillor Claudia Webbe.
All three hailed the project as a success.
But residents have lashed out against the politicians saying that the new system has diverted traffic away from the junction to residential roads creating “rat runs” while rush-hour traffic jams have left cars idling in the road pumping fumes into nearby Canonbury Primary School in Canonbury Street.
Ian Kelly, of Fieldway Crescent, said: “Local residents are plagued with dangerous traffic-filled streets and the noise and pollution associated with this disbursed traffic. It is essential that he [Mr Khan] understands this, rather than embracing the back-slapping Transport for London and Islington Council are seeking to obtain.”
Liberia Road resident Heather Webster, 83, said: “There is a school just over there [Canonbury Primary School] and there are cars sitting in congested traffic. This has caused pollution everywhere.”
The Tribune put these complaints to Mr Khan and his cycling and walking czar Will Norman.
Mr Khan said: “Those children who attend that school actually suffer some of the worst quality air, because of where the school is those children will probably have stunted lungs. The adults who teach them will suffer all sorts of health issues because of poor quality air. So as a direct consequence of this transformation the health of those children will improve.”
He added: “What’s important is to recognise that the status quo wasn’t sustainable. What this transformation will do is definitely improve the quality of life for residents and for businesses.”
Mr Norman said: “The key things we are trying to do is reduce car use across the city and that is an absolutely key part of the Mayor’s transport strategy that we are working on.”
Construction work to remove the 1960s roundabout and replace it with two-way roads to make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians and create a new public space began in June 2018.
In April this year traffic switched to two-way operation for the first time in 60 years.
A Town Hall tidying taskforce was rushed down to Highbury Corner on Wednesday to polish the railings, scrape stickers off lamp posts and wipe down the new public pathway before the Mayor’s visit.
Kate Pothalingham, a founder of the Highbury Fields Association, said: “You know what they say, the Queen goes around thinking everywhere smells like fresh paint.”