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Community meets to discuss tackling Westway toxic fumes nightmare

Charging drivers to use the A40 elevated motorway was one of the ideas mooted at the Let's Clear Some Air meeting aimed at combating pollution

A group of residents living in the shadow of the Westway flyover held a public meeting in a bid to solve their pollution nightmare.

Community group RAP23 says not enough is being done by organisations like Kensington and Chelsea Council and the Westway Trust charity, which looks after the 23 acres of land beneath the A40 elevated motorway, to stop them breathing in poisonous fumes .

The group, which stands for Reduce Air Pollution on the 23 Acres, held its Let's Clear Some Air meeting on Friday May 12.

Among the ideas suggested was a toll on the Westway flyover, getting communities involved in maintaining screening projects to help keep the deadly fumes at bay, and a no idling campaign.

Some 9,000 vehicles drive on the A40 elevated motorway through North Kensington each day(Image: Toby Laurent Belson)

The elevated stretch of road has six lanes carrying around 90,000 cars through the neighbourhood each day.

The group, which was set up two years ago, says residents have lost faith in local decision makers.

At its meeting was Leonie Cooper, chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee, leading environmental campaigners and experts in green solutions.

Also among those 150 people attending were parliamentary prospective candidates for Kensington Lady Victoria Borwick (Conservatives) and Emma Dent Coad (Labour).

A community fears it is being choked by car fumes(Image: Getty Images)

According to RAP23:

  • 70 people die from air pollution in North Kensington every year
  • Children born and growing up in North Kensington have smaller brains and lungs (due to there being less oxygen)
  • Miscarriages, still births and premature births increase in highly polluted areas and there is an 11% increase in dementia for people living 100 meters away from the Westway
  • Life expectancy is reduced by 2 to 9 years from pollution

RAP23 member Eve Wedderburn said: “Clean air should be our birth right and it is up to us to take up that right on behalf our of communities.”

Westway Trust gave RAP23 a £2,500 grant for the event and described it as “a success” while agreeing with many of the points raised.

Graeme Thornes, director of development, said: “We exercise no control over the road or traffic on the A40; however, we recognise this is a pressing issue for people locally, and while we cannot mitigate the impact of air pollution from the motorway entirely, we do want to play an active role in improving air quality and ensuring the estate is more environmentally sustainable.

This photo from 1970 shows a large banner saying 'Get Us Out Of This Hell Re-house Us Now'(Image: Central Press / Stringer / Getty)

“We think the best way to play a role is by forming partnerships with those that share our concerns; seeking to influence those than have control over air quality; and by working with the community and experts in the field to focus on the right issues.”

It will feed the views of experts and local people from meeting into its new environmental strategy and continue to work on a number of projects to tackle air pollution, he added.

A spokesperson for Kensington and Chelsea Council said many pollution issues are beyond its control: “Traffic from around the A40 is a major source of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter air pollution in the north of the Royal Borough but pollution levels on the borough’s main roads are all at similar levels.

A banner flying on the day of the Lets Clear Some Air meeting(Image: Daniel Renwick)

“The council cannot control the traffic passing through the borough on the A40 and to see a real improvement in air quality locally, vehicle pollution needs to be tackled across the capital.”

But he added: “While it is the responsibility of the London Mayor and national government to lead the way in addressing pollution levels, we have played our part by introducing the diesel surcharge, encouraging cycling, investing in improving public transport by supporting Crossrail 1 and 2, trialing the use of lamp columns to recharge electric vehicles and a number of other actions.”

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