Asthma rates increase across Lewisham post-LTN

11 Feb 2023

On the anniversary of Ella’s death there is clear evidence that childhood asthma is increasing on our polluted main roads.

Lewisham’s Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah should have turned 19 this January. Sadly, she died in 2013 following an asthma attack. Ella, who lived 25 metres from the South Circular, was the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death. Lib Dems congratulate her mother Rosamund on her recently appointed CBE for services to public health in recognition of her work to improve the lives of children with asthma living in South-East London ( Rosamund campaigns against air pollution and has been fighting to introduce the Clean Air (Human Rights) Bill - or for “Ella’s Law”, named after her daughter. This clean air bill was introduced to Parliament by Baroness Jenny Jones in 2022, which parliamentary Lib Dems were quick to support.

Ella’s law is vital in light of the fact that the UK has the second highest death rate of paediatric asthma in Europe. It is the primary cause of childhood illness with 1.1 million sufferers and the most common reason why children miss school (Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah CBE).

On the 10th anniversary of Ella’s death it is appalling that asthma rates are rising across Lewisham and that the South Circular’s air pollution has grown even worse. Rosamund is concerned that Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) make main roads like the South Circular even more congested, worsening health; she describes Lewisham’s LTN as ‘horrific’. According to Lewisham Council’s response to a Public Question by Annie Kirby there has been a rise in asthma rates across Lewisham postdating the LTN. This suggests that the LTN is anything but healthy, especially for those residents suffering from the polluting traffic displaced onto main roads. Lewisham GP practices and parents report children being newly diagnosed with asthma or suffering worsening symptoms. One mother living close to the A20, where congestion has increased post-LTN, says that before 2019 her son would take asthma medication intermittently, whereas now uses it constantly and is dependent on it. Another mother states that her daughter has been diagnosed with asthma since having to walk to school along congested residential main roads. Shockingly, the council’s Air Quality Action Plan contains no measures for busy roads like the South Circular beyond an extra air monitor.

Similarly, since the introduction of the LTN, pollution levels on Leahurst Road are now as high as the surrounding A roads. The Labour council’s response to this data is to change the area being monitored rather than address the underlying cause. Even if the pollution is just below acceptable levels, it is not acceptable to change monitoring criteria or leave residents worse off than they were before. Your local Liberal Democrat party will continue to campaign for transparency and solutions that do not disadvantage residents.

According to former Labour Councillor Paul Maslin Lewisham Council ignored Rosamund’s ‘lived experience’ (and that of many others) when they made the Lee Green LTN permanent. They also ignored our calls to fundamentally reform it. We urge them again to rethink and put in place concrete measures to improve the air quality and environment on the borough’s busiest roads.

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