JEREMY CLACKSON, our motoring correspondent, reports on the inherent contradiction of the borough’s drive for growth (in cars, naturally)
Croydon Council has just announced a public consultation (another one), this time over the borough’s rapidly worsening air quality.
They are even planning to hold an “air quality summit” as they prepare Croydon’s Draft Action Air Quality Plan through to 2022. If the 2017-2022 air quality action plan is as ineffectual as the three previous such plans which have been drafted since 2000, then they really might as well not bother.
On air pollution, Croydon Council’s record, regardless of the politics of the administration, has typically been one actions failing to match its words.
- The Croydon Council putting forward the air quality action plan is the same local authority where an unnamed environment official contributed to a planning application report that stated that air quality around the Purley Way was not too bad, and any toxic pollutants would in any case blow away in the prevailing winds. And the members of the planning committee accepted this tommy rot without question.
- It is also the same local authority which is a willing partner to the building of an industrial-scale waste incinerator on the borough boundary, which will be pumping out potentially toxic particulates across south London for the next 30 years.
- It is the same local authority which sat back and watched while the air quality monitoring station on the busy junction between George Street and Wellesley Road was “re-positioned” – a process which somehow managed to take more than six months.
- And it is the same Croydon Council which earlier this month approved plans to build a large primary school right next to the Croydon Flyover, after accepting the applicants’ report that air quality alongside the busy six-lane A232 is just peachy for young, developing lungs.
This air quality “consultation” comes at a time when the council’s real priority is to satisfy land-owners and property developers in a relentless drive for growth, particularly in the retail sector, which requires tens of thousands of extra visitors to the already polluted town centre, the majority of whom will be travelling there by… car. The irreconcilable contradiction between those positions appears to have escaped all concerned at Fisher’s Folly.
There’s a council report going before next Monday’s Town Hall cabinet meeting which is gung-ho in its support for London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s various proposals to clean up the capital’s air quality.
The lead officer on the report is the “executive director of place”, Shifa Mustafa.
She was probably too preoccupied packing her overnight case for her lovely little trip to the South of France and MIPIM this week , where she has been flogging the borough’s growth strategy, to notice that among Khan’s proposals is a ban on motor vehicles from roads next to primary schools.
It is Mustafa’s council department which has approved plans to build the Harris Purley Way primary next to the A23, and the Krishna Avanti primary, where the traffic fumes from the Flyover are already so bad the chief planning officer was talking about keeping the school’s pupils indoors on the smoggiest days.
Mustafa’s report states: “Air quality is an important public health issue in London. It contributes to shortening the life expectancy of all Londoners, disproportionately impacting on the most vulnerable. It has been estimated that 9,400 deaths occur each year due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution.” Will that be the long-term exposure which starts in council-backed primary schools built next to major roads?
The report continues: “With the focus on air quality so high the time is now perfect to produce an integrated five-year action plan to focus on local actions the council can take to reduce emissions and minimise exposure of air pollutants to those who live and work in Croydon.
“The Mayor of London is leading the way nationally on this issue and has recently launched ambitious and far-ranging plans to improve air quality in the capital. Croydon supports those plans. We also want ambitious plans for our borough too, but we don’t have all of the answers so this report recommends that we start public consultation to help shape the borough’s next Air Quality Action Plan.”
The council report notes, “London breached its annual air quality limit just five days into 2017.”
In Croydon, an experiment in air quality monitoring conducted by Inside Croydon with the help of Friends of the Earth, conducted at the end of 2016, show that pollution on one central Croydon residential street to be nearly twice the legal limit.
In 2014, Labour campaigned in the Town Hall elections on a manifesto pledge of making Croydon the greenest borough in London, yet within months of taking office, leader Tony Newman and his team turned their backs on any action to withdraw from the Beddington Lane incinerator scheme, something Mayor Khan also did at the recent Mayor’s Question Time event in Sutton, when he claimed that it was too late for him to intervene.
Perhaps that’s why there seems to be a hollow ring to the words ascribed to Stuart King, the fast-rising first-term Labour councillor, who has been handed the transport and environment cabinet job.
“Improving air quality is vital if we want to make Croydon not only cleaner and greener but also safer,” King’s supposed to have said, according to the council’s propaganda department this week.
If only the council’s actions on the issue on so many occasions did not contradict their bold words.
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