Pollution cloud over Croydon as Mayor calls for less car use

Deadly cloud of pollution: the grey smear hanging over Croydon, as seen from near the Purley Way at lunchtime today

A dirty grey smear hung above Croydon at lunchtime today, evidencing the health warnings because of particulate pollution issued this morning by DEFRA and the Met Office.

Simon Birkett, the founder of Clean Air London, described the situation as a “Code Red alert for high particle air pollution” in the city today and tomorrow, as winds slow and an area of high pressure sits over the capital.

The gin blue of the sky above the city was because of meteorological conditions which manage to foster the kind of urban smog that is prevalent in cities with high levels of car use, industrial smoke, wood burners and, of course, waste incinerators. The Viridor incinerator at Beddington was busy burning Croydon’s rubbish this afternoon.

Birkett says that there have been 800 deaths attributable to air pollution in England in the first 11 days of 2022 already.

“Londoners will stew in our own juice for days. No burning or unnecessary driving please,” he tweeted this morning, as he appealed to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, to issue a serious public health warning.

Time for action: Simon Birkett’s appeal to Mayor Khan this morning

Birkett says that DEFRA – the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – has itself avoided issuing a red air quality warning for 11 years, deterred by the adverse reaction the civil servants attracted when they last warned against dangerous levels of air pollution in 2011. “DEFRA has form,” Birkett said.

DEFRA’s own code says that pollution at levels 7 to 9, “Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.

“Anyone experiencing discomfort such as sore eyes, cough or sore throat should consider reducing activity, particularly outdoors.”

At level 10, DEFRA advises against all outdoor activity for those with breathing conditions, to avoid the risk of asthma or heart attacks arising from inhaling the deadly air.

Yesterday, Mayor Khan issued a warning of his own, saying that London faces a crisis of “filthy air and gridlocked roads”.

Khan cited a report by traffic information supplier Inrix, which claimed London was the world’s most congested city last year.

Choke point: DEFRA’s UK Air map from this morning, showing the pollution hot spot over London

Car usage in London is close to being back to pre-pandemic levels.

While motor vehicle use dropped sharply in early 2020, anecdotal reports suggest that more people are returning to using their cars as London emerges from the various covid lockdowns. That’s in part to aid social distancing by avoiding public transport, but there are fears that much-reduced services on trains, buses and Tubes is seeing more private vehicle use.

Bus usage is at 70 per cent and Tube travel at 55 per cent of levels seen before the first lockdown.

“Whilst we have made huge strides in increasing walking and cycling in London throughout the pandemic, car use has remained consistently high,” the Mayor said yesterday.

“If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future, we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.

“The cost to both Londoners and the capital cannot be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts.

“Most traffic is caused simply by there being too great a demand for limited street space, meaning the only long-term solution can be to significantly reduce car use in favour of greener means of travel.”

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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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12 Responses to Pollution cloud over Croydon as Mayor calls for less car use

  1. steve says:

    Its been like that for the last couple of years, I see it every morning when I drive to work. Maybe if the council stopped using the 20mph restrictions, electrify all buses, take off restrictions on cut through roads to reduce the traffic jams, we might all be better off. Only the issue would be the council would see a drastic drop in penalty fine income.

    • You’re wrong.

      The conditions are particular to the current high-pressure area, so would not be present “every morning”, as you falsely claim. And besides, if you were being honest you will have also mentioned that there was a noticeable, and recorded, reduction in air pollution over London, and Croydon, in the months from March to July in 2020.

      But it is good to see a staff member from Croydon (and New Addington’s) Tories’ favourite firm of undertakers, Rowland Brothers, is taking time out of their busy day to attempt to spread disinformation about traffic-reduction measures. Presumably, you consider that any improvement in air quality might be bad for business.

      • I agree with Steve from Rowland Rat-run brothers.

        It’s a well-known fact that a car is most fuel efficient at around 60mph, so this should be the speed limit on Croydon’s roads.

        That way we eliminate pollution and end traffic jams, and stop the police and council from profiting from us just for breaking the ridiculously low 20mph restrictions.

        It also means the school run will become an educational thrill for the kids.

        A benefit Steve will find attractive is replacing sedate and dreary funeral corteges with something much more exciting for the mourners, while ending the selfish inconvenience the dead momentarily impose on the living when making their final journey.

        Croydon’s reputation as a haven for cruising and racing will be restored, making it a tourist attraction, boosting our local economy and helping us shine as a borough of culture in 2023.

        If Jason Perry promises to replace “20’s plenty” with “60’s nippy”, he’ll definitely get my vote in his bid to become Mayor.

  2. Lewis White says:

    As someone who used to live in Woodmansterne, where the North facing “dip slope” of the North Downs stops at around 450 feet above sea level, and from where there is a panoramic view over Croydon and the whole of S London, from Windsor round to Shooters Hill and Canary Wharf, I can assure loyal readers that this pall of pollution has been in existence on many days of every week of the year for at least 30 years. Still air allows all the pollution fom Heathrow airport, the M4 corridor, the vehicles of SW and S London, and now the incinerator, to build up fom a filthy grey (with sulphorous tinges at times) lid over our fair capital city.

    Truth be told, we are all responsible. Even non-car driving, avid recyclers throw a way a residue of stuff that now gets incinerated, rather than landfilled, which of course has substituted one very bad thing for another very bad thing.

    However, those who commute for miles, in cars with engines well over 2000cc, must generate far more than the average person who nips down the shops in the car.

    The rise of the electric car will undoubtedly help a great deal, but the incinerator and Heathrow and all thse aircraft will remain for decades more.

    Every little (reduction) helps when it comes to pollutants.
    The responsibility is ours…. and particularly, DEFRA’s athe UK Government’s.

  3. Andy says:

    So, None of this is due to the fact that the incinerator spewing out pollution to burn rubbish on Beddington lane has anything to do with it, it’s been proven that it isn’t as eco friendly as it was purported to have been when construction was first started, it exceeds permitted pollution levels.

    • As you will have noticed in reading the article, the incinerator is, of course, a contributor to the air pollution in the area, one which will be impacting the health of south Londoners for the next three decades.

  4. David Squires says:

    Every person making unnecessary car journeys is contributing to this, including early deaths, lung damage and development of dementia. Let us not forget that one of the biggest contributors to Covid related issues is obesity. We need to get people active and out of cars. Electric cars are not the answer because the particulates from brakes and tyres are one of the biggest issues.

    As for what is going on at the incinerator, it is funny how quickly councils shout climate emergency, but then show with their actions that they don’t really care about such things.

    • miapawz says:

      Well I would use public transport all the time if there were any available at the times I need to travel and if Southern would restore even a basic through service to London and back.

  5. Hazel swain says:

    couldnt be because of the incinerator and all the endless building of flats going on could it ? as for getting active.. not everyone who drives a car CAN walk or cycle !!!!! that is why they drive!!!

  6. Now would be a good time to get an update from Croydon council about its Air Quality Action Plan for 2017 to 2022.

  7. Haydn White says:

    The incinerator at Beddington will have much to do with the pollution levels especially when the contractor is paid more to burn waste than recycle it and you can bet the contract has no financial penalties for exceeding the limits .

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