Croydon needs to be in the zone to allow children to breathe

CROYDON COMMENTARY: The Mayor of London is consulting on the capital’s air quality, and PETER UNDERWOOD says it is important that people in Croydon make him aware that we need to be included in the extended Ultra Low Emissions Zone

The 1956 Clean Air Act was supposed to end London smogs

Air pollution is Croydon is a real problem and it is time we made our politicians act on it.

It is just over 60 years since the Clean Air Act was introduced. This Act followed the Great Smog of 1952 that killed more than 4,000 people and harmed the health of tens of thousands more. When the new legal controls were introduced – mainly over the kind of coal which homes and businesses could burn – the damage caused to our health and environment by that type of smog was greatly reduced.

But in the 21st Century, we face new threats, and yet again thousands of people are dying and suffering poor health as a result of filthy air. Evidence has shown that children growing up in polluted areas suffer life-long impacts in their health.

This year, according to New Scientist, London reached its annual air pollution limits before the end of January. That’s an entire year’s worth of pollution in less than one month. We have another 11 months of filthy air to come.

While you would probably expect central London to have problems, the issue doesn’t just affect the centre. There’s a noticeable, and growing, effect of pollution in outer London, including Croydon.

In 2017, members of Croydon Friends of the Earth conducted air pollution monitoring at sites all over the borough. The results are shocking.

The monitors measured Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels, one of the key pollution gasses, and found that levels were way in excess of safe limits in many places in Croydon.

Is the Mayor of London doing enough to clean up air quality for the whole of the capital?

The EU safe level of NO2 is set at below 40 microgrammes per cubic metre. Most of the Friends of the Earth monitors recorded levels above or close to that limit.

These were readings collected over a number of weeks and averaged out. At busy times, it seems very likely that the level of air pollution will be way over the legal limit in the places that we pass through on our way to work, school, or just out and about in Croydon.

So if air pollution is so bad, what is being done about it?

Croydon Council recently launched its five-year air quality action plan. You may not have heard much about it. Frankly, that’s probably because it doesn’t actually promise very much “action”.

There are a few good ideas in there, like greening our streets and moving the council’s own fleet to less-polluting vehicles. But these are just tinkering around the edges.

Croydon Council, under both Labour and the Conservatives, is on record as supporting expansion of Gatwick Airport. We all know that flights are a major source of pollution. The council’s efforts to support walking and cycling infrastructure are dwarfed by the amount being spent to try to get more cars into the centre of Croydon; the Westfield and Hammerson regeneration of the Whitgift Centre includes more than 3,000 car parking spaces. And finally, how can an air quality action plan be taken seriously when it doesn’t even mention the incinerator being built in Beddington that will spew pollutants over Croydon for the next 25 years?

The consultation on Croydon’s air quality plan has closed. Of course, there are council elections coming up in a few weeks’ time when you can show your support for cleaner air by voting for candidates who take air pollution seriously.

If Croydon is not included in the Mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, we could suffer worse air quality than some inner city boroughs

And there is also action you can take now. The Mayor of London is currently consulting on his air quality plan. The strengthening and widening of London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) will have an impact on reducing pollution. Unfortunately at the moment the Mayor is only planning to extend this as far as the South Circular, leaving Croydon to stew in a fug of its own making.

In previous consultations, the Mayor has been shown to shift his position if he is pushed enough. So it is worthwhile you completing the questionnaire on this consultation and demanding that the air pollution plans are extended to cover outer London boroughs like Croydon.

Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell has provided sample answers to the questionnaire here, explaining why those answers will make a difference. And, at the end of the questionnaire, there is space to give your thoughts and make a case for the plan to be extended to include Croydon.

So please respond to the Mayor of London’s consultation before it closes at the end of this month and demand that action is taken to tackle air pollution in Croydon. Click here to visit the Mayor’s site.

It will only take a couple of minutes but it could make a huge difference to your health and the health of our children.

  • Peter Underwood, right, has stood as a candidate in local and parliamentary elections in Croydon on behalf of the Green Party

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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6 Responses to Croydon needs to be in the zone to allow children to breathe

  1. Traffic needs to be diverted away from some residential areas. Southbridge Road is particularly bad. !

  2. Ron West says:

    Condition of vehicle as at previous MOT emissions test should be taken into account.

    Older light vehicles that are not technically compliant under the broad-brush Euro categories but which had very good emission results at their last MOT test should be exempted from charges – or at least given extended sunset status. Likewise, newer vehicles with only marginal emissions passes at their last MOT test should be considered for charges.

    Far more useful would be a reconsideration of the 20mph zones in the more open-road areas of the borough, since driving at 20mph on open roads requires staying in low gear, frequent touches of the brakes and frequent taking attention off the road to check the car speed – which reduces safety and increases pollution (brake dust as well as petrol consumption).

  3. Lewis White says:

    I really hate to say this, but I think it is a pity that Croydon never went forward in the 1960s with a proper ring road, widening existing streets, and involving demolition of adjacent houses, replacing them with a tree lined dual carriageway.

    These same streets are now traffic choked, like Southbridge Road as mentioned above, where people` front doors are right on the street, or distanced by only a few metres.

    The people who live there now are suffering worse pollution than they would have done if a well-planted ring road had been built.

    All areas of Croydon are residential other than the office and shops middle, so sadly we cant “divert traffic away” from them.

    The main solution to air pollution is electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells, although tree planting makes a huge difference by taking out dust and exhaust particulates from the air, and by cooling the urban air (as well as looking beautiful).
    Why is the Mayor of London not proposing to phase out ALL diesel and petrol taxis and delivery vehicles in the whole of London, and scrapping all but hydrogen cell powered buses. These work well.

    Oh yes– the elephant in the living room… and scrapping all of London`s Incinerators.

  4. People never like it, but the simple answer is to do more to get people out of cars and converted to walking/cycling. I’m quite happy to walk the 20 minutes into central Croydon, but I’d be the first to admit that it is not even slightly enjoyable because of the volume of motor vehicles. If I, as a person that enjoys walking, find it nasty, someone that doesn’t normally do it is even less likely to start. Its the same with cycling. Some of the roads are scary for even the most experienced cyclist, so why is someone with little experience going to try?

    There should also be more attempts at pedestrianisation, and I don’t mean silly 100m stretches like the recent addition in central Croydon. Anyone that passes through Bank junction in central London (which is still open to buses 24 hours a day and to other vehicles between 7pm and 7am) will tell you how much more pleasant it is now.

    Although air quality is the big thing at the moment, one must not forget the awful noise pollution caused by cars. I can only imagine how much people suffer in houses in places like Southbridge Road. You wouldn’t want to open a window in the summer both because of the pollution and the noise.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Hi David,
    I agree with you about excessive noise , but could offer two thoughts–
    one— electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will stop air pollution in the street
    two — they will create far less noise.

    Maybe , the likes of TESLA electric cars will improve the health and life quality of people who live close to very busy roads. Southbridge Road is a very good example.

    Even Bio -diesel and the now almost forgotten LPG cars will do so too.

    OK, the generation of electricity currently causes air pollution in the burning of fossil fuels, but hopefully, solar and wind and tidal power will supply most of our needs, within perhaps 20 years from now.

    ps note to self… must invest Aunty Nellie`s generous bequest in some eco-power fund .

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