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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 October, 2003, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Road fumes stop children's playtime
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff

Sarah Turner
Head teacher Sarah Turner has had to ration children's playtime
Sixty nursery children have been told to stay out of their playground because of "unacceptable" traffic fume levels from a nearby road.

Pollution at Bowes Primary School, north London, has been so high that under-fives have been limited to 20 minutes outdoors at a time.

Head teacher Sarah Turner is calling for road improvements to ensure the distance between the nursery playground and the major A406 route is extended beyond the current 10 feet.

She said: "It's something we've been asking for for years. It's totally unacceptable that the children have to suffer like this. It must be a health risk if they stay out for too long.

"In a normal nursery children would be allowed to come and go as they pleased from the classroom to the playground.


"It's a real bottleneck here, so the traffic gets stuck and the fumes are really bad.

"We've had a pollution report that showed acceptable levels were being exceeded."

When Bowes Primary was built, in 1901, the road was a quiet lane. It is now a part of the North Circular four-lane highway.

These days, it suffers from added congestion caused by commuters and a nearby set of traffic lights.


Ms Turner, in charge of 400 children altogether, including 60 in the nursery group, is also concerned over safety.

A footbridge has been built outside. However, it gives clear views of the nursery and primary school playgrounds, leading to fears it may be used as a vantage point by potential abusers.

The A406
The A406 by the school is a notorious traffic bottleneck

Ms Turner said: "We need a coherent road-improvement project. The amount of traffic has increased a lot over recent years.

"This used to be a leafy area but it's not any more. We've had discussions about moving the school somewhere else in the area but it's not feasible.

"The pavement between the school and the road is not wide enough. It's dangerous if we want to take children out for a walk."

A previous scheme to build a tunnel next to the school was turned down for being too expensive.

Teachers have tried putting up plants between the road and the playground to reduce the fumes, but they died.

Road-widening, to relieve the bottleneck, has also been ruled out because of a lack of space.

Ms Turner has called on Transport for London, which oversees road management in the capital, to look at new ways of making improvements.

She said: "If I had a wish, it would be that we could just do something to help. It's appalling at the moment."

Transport for London has not responded to our requests for a comment.

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