Tower Hamlets schools call on Mayor Rahman not to reverse Liveable Streets schemes 

Five headteachers have written a letter to the Mayor urging him to retain and improve existing road layouts around their schools in Bethnal Green.

Headteachers from five schools in Bethnal Green have written a letter to Mayor Rahman urging him to retain and improve the current street layouts around Old Bethnal Green Road and Columbia Road implemented in 2021 as part of Transport for London’s Liveable Streets schemes

The heads of Lawdale Junior School, Elizabeth Selby Infant School, Virginia Primary School, Columbia Primary School and Oaklands School expressed their support for the new street layouts, which they say have brought significant health and safety improvements to the area around their schools that used to be dominated by traffic, noise and pollution. 

The letter, which was sent on Monday 30 January and has not yet received a reply from the Mayor, comes in response to Tower Hamlets Council’s newest round of public consultations on the Liveable Streets schemes for Old Bethnal Green and Weavers which opened on 23 January and will run until 12 February. 

The consultation asks residents and businesses to choose between two options: to remove the Liveable Streets closures and implement a series of area-wide improvements to the public realm to address traffic congestion, or to retain the current schemes. 

Addressing Mayor Rahman, the headteachers wrote: ‘We are deeply concerned by the proposals you have published at the start of a three-week consultation process. You haven’t put forward any options for improving the schemes by building on what we currently have. 

‘Instead you are presenting a choice between reopening roads such as Old Bethnal Green Road to more than 6,000 vehicles per day or keeping the layouts as they are.’ 

Simon Ramsay, Headteacher of Oaklands School which has two school sites on either side of Old Bethnal Green Road said: ‘We have nearly 1000 students spilling out onto the roads everyday. I remember what it was like before the new street layouts and can say that it is immeasurably better and safer now.’ 

Since its inception in 2021, Liveable Streets has been a divisive topic creating polarised opinions in Tower Hamlets. Ramsay and campaigners in favour of retaining the schemes are urging the Mayor not to present it as a binary issue, but to keep the current layouts and make smaller, cost-effective changes if necessary. 

In the letter, the headteachers ask: ‘Are the current schemes perfect? Surely not. Can they be improved? Yes, we think so.’ 

Ramsay added: ‘There are lots of myths circulating about the road layouts serving the middle class but that is not true of Oaklands at all. We are a local school in one of the most deprived areas of the country and most of our young people live around here. 

‘We are in the top 100 out of 5,500 schools across the country for the percentage of students receiving free school meals which shows what an important institution we are in our students’ lives, and there’s a real value in having a safe and clean built environment.’ 

While he praised recent moves by the Mayor to put education at the top of his agenda, Ramsay said that he was disappointed that Mayor Rahman had turned down his invitation to meet with him at Oaklands to see the benefits of the improved built environment for the students’ everyday lives. 

This newest round of consultations in Bethnal Green and Weavers comes after a previous consultation on the same area six months ago, and the borough’s second biggest e-petition ever, signed by 3,094 people, calling on the Council not to rip up the road closures across Tower Hamlets. 

The previous consultation results show majority support for the new street layouts across the borough. Regarding Old Bethnal Green Road, 50% of respondents said that they opposed the proposal to remove the road closure, versus 47% who supported it and 3% who remained neutral. 

Elsewhere in the borough, schools have been at the centre of the debate around reopening roads in Tower Hamlets, with the removal of Chisenhale Primary’s ‘School Street’ attracting the attention of the national press. 

The scheme, which had been in place since April 2021 as an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO), used camera-monitored timed road restrictions to close the road around the school during drop-off and collection time. 

Chisenhale Primary School’s headteacher, Gemma Anidi, said at the time: ‘We are very disappointed by the Mayor’s decision. The removal of School Streets puts children’s lives at risk and will discourage the many who walk and cycle to school from doing so. I worry deeply now about the safety of children travelling to and from school.’ 

Consultations are also currently taking place about Liveable Streets schemes in Brick Lane running from 30 January to 19 February 2023. 

Roman Road LDN approached Tower Hamlets Council for comment but received no reply. 

If you enjoyed this article, read our piece about how the Chisenhale Play Space became the symbol for saving school streets. 

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Eastside Educational Trust and Space Hire

Chisenhale Primary School

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One thought on “Tower Hamlets schools call on Mayor Rahman not to reverse Liveable Streets schemes 

  • My daughter is going to Oakland secondary school next year and I am very concerned about these proposals. It is unbelievable that the council would suggest such dangerous road changes to so many schools, when children in Tower Hamlets already have reduced lung function and breathe higher levels of N02 than anywhere else in London. Residents have already rejected the changes so why is the council asking again?

    This is a terrible idea and it should be dropped.


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