Leaf blower ban in Camden a victory for all

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after Camden Council banned street cleaners from using noisy leaf blowers during the spring and summer months.

Town Hall environment bosses last week ordered cleaning contactors Veolia to stop using the petrol-powered menaces outside autumn and winter.

The edict came after the firm’s staff were seen using the leaf blowers to get rid of the tree spores and blossom currently falling on Camden streets.

Protesters, who have been campaigning for the devices to be banned for more than a year, were celebrating this week.

Hampstead Town councillor Kirsty Roberts, who has raised fears about the negative effects the machines can have on children, said the decision was a “major victory”.

“It’s a huge leap forward from where we were before,” she said. “All the research points to them being massive polluters. When I stand and watch anyone using them, they just seem to blow everything everywhere, without any benefits.

“In particular they are a danger to children because a child’s respiratory system is not mature so any sort of pollution will affect them.”

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Jim Murray, from the Bloomsbury Association, who was instrumental in getting Camden to agree to the ban added: “This means we’ve got relatively clean air between now and the autumn – it’s quite incredible.

“You see people walking down the street choking and rubbing their eyes, so getting rid of the blowers has made a real difference to the area.”

Both Mr Murray and Cllr Roberts are members of group which since last year has been putting pressure on the council and London Mayor Boris Johnson to ban leaf blowers.

Along with Highgate eco-campaigner Simon MacReynoldson, they set up an online petition to have the petrol-run blowers banned across the capital on public health grounds.

The petition attracted hundreds of signatures and in September was jointly presented to Mayor Johnson and London Assembly member for Camden and Barnet, Brian Coleman.

But it made little difference until last week, when Richard Bradbury, Camden’s assistant head of street environment services, responded to calls to outlaw the blowers.

In an email response to Mr Murray, Mr Bradbury pledged to stop the use of the offending machines “out of season”. He wrote: “I can confirm that Veolia has agreed to discontinue this practice and has issued a management instruction accordingly.”

But Cllr Roberts vowed that despite this success the fight against the blowers would continue until they were banned nationwide – although a council spokesman said a “total ban” was presently unlikely.

He said: “Leaf blowers are standard items of equipment and do assist with clearing large amounts of foliage that falls onto footpaths in the autumn months. They are essential in the cleansing of the borough, keeping pathways and other hard surfaces clean and safe.

“We continually review the way our contractors use leaf blowers, however a total ban would require a vast rise in our parks and street environment workforce, increasing costs substantially for residents.”