Islington’s bold vision for cleaner, greener, healthier streets – Cllr Rowena Champion

Here in Islington, we are serious about tackling the climate emergency.

Last year, we were named as one of the five London boroughs most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. That’s why our Labour-run Council has marked the start of 2023 by outlining a bold vision for cleaner, greener, healthier streets.

We are proud of what we have already achieved, from removing dangerous gyratories and introducing safer and more accessible routes for people walking and cycling, to establishing our Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle Streets programme.

Over the last year, we have planted nearly 700 trees, improving our already impressive canopy cover of 25% – significantly above the England average of 16% – of which we have committed to increasing to 30% by 2050. In addition, our Labour-run council is bringing attractive new street planters to our people-friendly streets neighbourhoods, and turning grey to green by turning unused concrete areas into valuable green space, such as community gardens and parklets. However, the climate crisis, coupled with the public health crises of air pollution and inactivity makes it imperative that we go even further in transforming our borough.

In the last few years, our Labour-run Council has been leading by example in how we can clean up our air, get Islington moving and tackle the climate emergency. Whilst we are doing all we can within our powers to achieve Net Zero by 2030, a recent review of the Tory government’s delivery of net zero, to ensure it was ‘pro-growth and pro-business’ has shown the UK as a whole is falling behind on some of its targets and needs a ‘new approach’.

But while the Tory Government fails to do what is so necessary, it falls on Labour Councils such as ours to take action.

Our people-friendly streets programme is just one of the ways we are doing that, making it easier to walk, cycle, scoot and use buggies and wheelchairs. A total of eight people-friendly streets neighbourhoods have been introduced, removing cut throughs and reducing traffic on local roads, covering 24% of the borough. Monitoring data reflects the positive impact of our schemes, showing air quality has improved in each neighbourhood and on surrounding boundary roads between 2019 and 2021.

Islington’s 36 School Streets, which account for 88% of all eligible primary schools in the borough, the highest proportion of any council in the country, are closing the school gate to vehicles at drop-off and pick-up times, making the school run a safer and healthier experience for children, carers and teachers.

The success of Islington Council’s efforts to tackle the climate emergency has seen our borough rank as Healthy Streets Scorecard’s best-performing borough for healthy streets action.

But we must go further. Our plans will see new environmental improvements to boost air quality outside of schools on main roads and bringing our successful School Streets to secondary schools. And our proposed package of Liveable Neighbourhoods, alongside our existing people-friendly streets neighbourhoods, would cover 70% of the borough. These Liveable Neighbourhoods won’t only aim to reduce traffic, but they will also see increased green space and an improved public realm, changing the way our borough looks and feels.

We will also work to make every pavement in Islington people-friendly, through improvements such as repaving existing footways, improved crossing points, dropped kerbs, improved foliage maintenance, tactile paving, and street clutter removal.

Included in the plans is the creation of a new cycle route connecting Regents Canal and Highgate, and working with Transport for London on creating Cycleway 50, connecting Camden and Tottenham Hale. Additionally, we are working on proposals to make it easier to walk and cycle on the Old Street-Clerkenwell Road corridor.

This huge programme of work will be made possible through a £9m commitment we have made, lasting until 2025.

No one can experience the 40 degree temperatures we saw last summer, or unpredictable weather and drought induced fires in London without seeing that change is already happening. It would be irresponsible of us as a Labour Council not to respond urgently to the many challenges climate change brings. That is why we must continue to deliver environmentally friendly streets for Islington, and our exciting vision is designed to achieve just that. Our ambition to create a more equal Islington is at the heart of everything we do, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact that these changes bring to people across our borough.