Youngsters at schools in Leamington and Warwick make voices heard over clean air issue

Youngsters at schools in the Warwick district have taken part in protests as part of the national Clean Air Day campaign.

In conjunction with the event on June 20, North Leamington School launched a campaign to improve the quality of air around the school.

Milverton School pupils and Leamington Mayor Cllr Bil Gifford and town councillor Susan Rasmussen at the school's clean air demonstration.

Milverton School pupils and Leamington Mayor Cllr Bil Gifford and town councillor Susan Rasmussen at the school's clean air demonstration.

The school has established the car park as a ‘No Idling Zone’ to improve air quality and create a healthier environment for students, teachers and parents.

In this zone, all vehicle owners are asked to turn their engines off while they wait.

The campaign came to life following an email from a parent asking if the school could politely put a note in the parent bulletin. This led the school to look further into the issue.

Headteacher Joy Mitchell said: “I believe the campaign is a very important one. If we can increase everyone’s awareness and contribute to reducing carbon emissions by getting parents to park up and turn off their engines, then we can make a difference to the quality of air for everyone.”

The parent who raised the issue said: ‘I recently emailed the headteacher as I was becoming increasingly exasperated by car drivers sitting in the school car park with their engines running, whatever the weather and with no obvious reason for doing so.

“I was very pleased to read the detailed and well researched article in the recent school newsletter about idling cars and the effect of their noxious exhaust fumes on the lungs of young people and the environment and I would like to thank the school for taking the time to read my email and for responding in such a positive manner.”

North Leamington School now hopes others will follow its lead.

n Pupils at Milverton Primary School have been learning about the effect of pollution and monitoring the quality of air in and around the site using Friends of the Earth clean air packs.

They held an impassioned demonstration in Rugby Road during the day of the campaign last Thursday holding up banners which they had made themselves.

Year six pupil Jesse Esser, who came up with the slogan ‘Fumes no more, this is what we’re fighting for’, said: “What we are doing is helping our community.

“If we don’t do this now then the situation could become irreversible and we won’t ever have a nicer planet to live on.”

Lola Foulerton, of year five, said: “I sent off for clean air packs for the school and we have been monitoring the pollution levels.

“We are below average but we still want it to be less.

“It feels good to be able to do this demonstration.

“If we think it is bad around this school then imagine what the air is like in the town centre or somewhere like London.”

The Milverton pupils have also taken part in nationally organised climate-change strikes.

Their key focuses are encouraging cycling around Leamington by making it safer and easier for everyone to do; getting motorists to stop ‘idling’ which means switching off their engine if they are going to be stationary for ten seconds or more; reducing traffic on our roads; and saving the planet in general.

The protest was attended by Leamington mayor Cllr Bill Gifford and town councillor Susan Rasmussen (see comments on page 11).

n To mark National Clean Air Day, children from Barford St Peter’s School also made their voices heard once again over the issue of a proposed quarry on nearby farmland. The pupils and villagers are asking the landowners, St John’s College, Oxford, to withdraw the farmland from Warwickshire County Council’s Minerals Plan.

They claim that the quarry will lead to air pollution in the village. In December campaigners against the plans for the quarry handed over 250 objections to Warwickshire County Council. Children were among the 60 people who protested outside Shire Hall in Warwick at the 
time.

**** Talking at Milverton Primary School (see page 10), Cllr Susan Rasmussen said: “We’ve got together some county, district and town councillors and are trying to involve all parties and none because we need to be non-politically aligned.

“We also have professional transport engineers and a public health consultant who works for the county council and Coventry City Council with us and we’ve had our first meeting with Margaret Smith - the senior transport planner for Warwickshire - and it was extremely positive. “Of course, it will be a long hard fight to try and change the way we travel to and move around Leamington but ultimately that’s our goal because unless we do that we can’t clean the air.

“There are so many branches to this - like the anti-idling campaign that the children at North Leamington School are doing today.

”It’s getting more cycling infrastructure joined up so that ten year olds can cycle to schools and leisure centres happily and it’s about making sure everybody who has an electric car is able to charge it.

“It’s not about banning anybody or everybody or pedestrianising streets.

“It’s about making Leamington a town that give priority to pedestrians and cyclists and all the research shows that that is not only good for people’s health but it’s good for business because if you walk or cycle or come to place by public transport you stay for longer, you spend more and relax in a place more. Everybody wins.”

For more information about the campaign visit www.cleanairday.org.uk ****