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
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.
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.
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.
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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