Mayor’s scandalous approach to dealing with poor air quality is failing Londoners ““ and causing thousands of premature deaths

These three local authorities represent half a million Londoners in the air pollution hotspot of London, and cut across the political divide between Labour and Conservative.

They have done all they can to tackle the problem and are now appealing to the Mayor of London who has powers over bus investment; regulation of taxis and air pollution responsibilities covering the capital.

All three believe mayor Boris Johnson has a real opportunity to deliver significant improvements in the air quality of central London and to this end, wrote to the mayor thinking he would seize this opportunity.

Take, for example, the heavy traffic along the Marylebone, Euston and City Road corridor.

This is just one specific black spot of poor air quality in central London with the monitoring station on the Marylebone Road regularly exceeding limits for PM10 (particulates) and NOx (mono- nitrogen oxides) particularly during the spring and summer.

Earlier this year, research at 100 monitoring sites by King’s College London found limits for harmful nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were breached at the majority of locations close to roads, with the worst pollution levels ““ over three times the limit ““ measured in Putney and Brixton.

The King’s College research also found limits for PM10 ““ which is linked to respiratory and cardiovascular conditions ““ were exceeded at two kerbside monitoring sites, three roadside sites and one industrial monitoring site.

These statistics are a startling reminder that the capital has a long way to go before it meets European Union limits devised to protect people.

The Mayor of London’s own short-term measures like stopping idling of engines, green walls and dust suppressant measures have had very limited impact, if at all.

This is not surprising given the lack of enforcement of idle engines around the rail stations; only one small green wall being installed on the side of Edgware Road tube and the mysterious dust suppressant being sighted by residents.

All these were designed as short-term measures at getting the readings at monitoring stations down and also the EU off their backs.

We have for too long heard about a raft of measures designed to tackle air pollution, but the results are as elusive as any long-term measures.

So how did Boris Johnson respond to this coalition of local councils urging him to do more? Disappointingly.

He reacted by simply restating what he’d done in his first term, positively lacking enthusiasm for the modest proposals put forward by the three councils to go further in his second term.

This, despite, their very achievable wish-list which included a better deployment of retro-fitted buses in central London, age limits on taxis with the offer of a car scrappage scheme, and a fifth phase of the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) which would cover black carbon and PM 2.5s for pollutants currently not registered.

Nevertheless, the mayor remained unmoved.

Recently the chair of the Barbican Association also wrote to the Mr Johnson about the impact of poor air quality in their estate and was given a short rehash of old measures which have simply not gone far enough.

Reading between the lines and judging by his responses to recent questions, it appears that the emphasis in his first term has been to appease various interest groups like "white van man" and London cabbies. He has yet to take on board the interests of residents in central London.

Unfortunately, this response comes as no surprise.

His manifesto for his second term makes no commitments to improving air quality despite its huge health impact on Londoners. Poor air quality is responsible for 4,300 premature deaths every year and is the second biggest public health threat in London after smoking. Quite simply, it is scandalous that the Mayor is adopting a laissez-faire approach to such an important issue which affects every single living, breathing organism in this city. As these three councils have recognised, more needs to be done now.


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Murad Qureshi is a Labour member of the London Assembly

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