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We’re not selfish, we just want to breathe clean air

17 March, 2017

• I WAS glad to read Alastair Harper’s letter about how furious he is at the pollution levels affecting the most vulnerable in society (Anti-barbecue protest has hijacked air pollution issue, March 3). He’s absolutely right.

However, he goes on to complain about the “affluent and fortunate” residents around Highbury Fields hijacking the issue for their anti-barbecue campaign. Clearly, Mr Harper is unaware of the 40 sheltered housing flats overlooking Highbury Fields, occupied mostly by pensioners with health problems.

We are far from affluent but we are most certainly vulnerable. Many of the residents of these flats are former civil servants, police, prison and medical workers who spent their lives serving others.

I have had lung cancer and had most of my right lung removed. On top of this, I suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. I have five friends living in the same housing who also have COPD. All of us are aware that traffic is the main cause of pollution in London but we also know that barbecues exacerbate the problem and prevent us from leaving our homes on sunny days. I have to keep my window shut when there are lots of barbecues on the Fields. I don’t have another lung to spare.

Everyone loves seeing families having fun on the Fields – and enjoying picnics is a traditional pastime in this country (unlike barbecues). We wouldn’t like to stop anyone coming to the Fields to enjoy the fresh air – it’s one of the few green spots in Islington which is why it’s all the more important it is kept free of fumes.

So we are calling on Islington Council to encourage picnics instead of barbecues, as the smoke from barbecues is lethal to us.

I would like to invite Mr Harper and someone from the environment department at the council to come round for tea and meet some of the most vulnerable people living around Highbury Fields, struggling with the smoke and pollution in the heat of the summer.

We’re a sociable lot and love having people in our “backyard”, so please don’t insult us by calling us “selfish”. We just want to be able to breathe clean air.

Highbury Terrace, N5 



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