Poor air quality in London is the biggest environmental public health crisis in a generation and is estimated to cost the UK £20 billion per year. London has the worst air quality in the UK and this has catastrophic consequences for our residents’ health.
A recent poll of 1,000 Londoners found that 88% think air pollution is a real issue, with 72% calling on Government ministers to do more. 40,000 people a year die prematurely from the consequences of poor air quality in the UK, with 9,400 of those deaths in London alone. Poor air quality affects residents throughout their lives, from smaller lungs in our children to the greater risk of dementia and strokes as we get older.
According to the Greater London Authority (GLA) around 300 of all premature deaths in Waltham Forest are as a direct consequence of poor air quality. Vehicle emissions contribute around 65% of the poor air quality in London.
Doing nothing to address poor air quality in London is no longer an option, so what is being done?
London should aim to be an example and that is why our Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has recently concluded a consultation to introduce an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) up to, but not including, the North Circular from October 2021. This means that drivers of non-ULEZ compliant cars, vans, motorbikes, lorries, coaches and buses would be charged to drive their vehicles within the proposed ULEZ.
Those vehicles that have a diesel engine that meets Euro 6 standard and those that have a petrol engine that meets Euro 4 standard will be compliant. Those that do not meet these standards will be non-compliant and will have to pay.
Waltham Forest, along with the majority of London boroughs want the proposed ULEZ to encompass the entirety of London in order to provide more significant improvements in air quality for our residents and to prevent some neighbourhoods becoming the domain of non-compliant vehicles as ‘rat- runs’ and car parks, thereby making the air even worse in those areas.
Transport for London estimates that by 2021, 80% of residents’ cars in the E4
postcode, for example, will be compliant and will not be charged. You can check
whether your vehicle is compliant here.
But this is only one part of a multi-faceted approach to addressing air quality in London.
Sadiq Khan and Labour in London have repeatedly called for the Conservative Government to fund a ‘Diesel Scrappage Scheme’, which they have so far refused. The Mayor has also earmarked £300 million to be spent on ensuring all London buses will be Euro 6 compliant by 2020, with only hybrid or zero-emission double decker buses being bought from 2018.
We also wholeheartedly support the Labour Party's commitment for a new Clean Air Act, following the repeated failings of the Conservative Government to act on this important issue.
On a local level, Waltham Forest Council is doing all we can to encourage, support and
facilitate the increasing decline in car ownership by implementing a significant roll out of Car Club Bays, supporting the emerging electric car revolution by installing a network of electric car charging points and increasing access to more dockless hire bikes.
We have also continued to commit more than £10 million to fund the hugely popular
Freedom Pass, which helps reduce individual car trips and reduce congestions.
Alongside funding from the GLA, we have also invested in our ‘Enjoy Waltham Forest’
scheme, making it easier for residents to walk and cycle and have significantly reduced ‘rat running’, by introducing bike hangars, safe cycle paths and modal filters. We have also planted more trees, taking the boroughs total past 50,000 – the highest is our history.
Most short journeys can be walked or cycled relatively easily and those who can’t should be able to use public transport. This is why we will continue to lobby TfL for better public transport links, particularly for increased bus routes, increased frequency, better accessibility to those routes and step free access at all our tube and rail stations.
It is crucial that collectively we work to improve London’s air quality and your Labour-run Waltham Forest Council will continue to invest in initiatives that deliver improvements to the dangerous levels of air quality in our borough.
Deputy Leader of Waltham Forest Council