Cllr Claire Holland, Cabinet Member for Environment & Clean Air blogs on the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone and what more needs to be done to clean up our air…
The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) comes into force today, meaning people who drive the most polluting vehicles will incur a daily charge to enter the zone. This is a ground breaking, world-leading policy from a Labour mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, which puts Labour in power at the vanguard of clean air policies.
Given more than 400 schools in London are in areas with illegal levels of pollution – meaning our young people grow up with lungs 5% smaller than otherwise would be the case – and over 9000 Londoners die prematurely each year of pollution-related illnesses, we can see why this has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of improving the air we breathe in London.
In Lambeth we have around 50 schools that are in areas with illegal pollution levels. Dirty air affect the poorest and most vulnerable in our society the most, particularly our older, younger and more vulnerable residents.
And we have one of the most polluted roads in the country – Brixton Road – that runs right through the heart of the borough so we know that radical action is needed to clean up our air.
Ultimately we need fewer cars – particularly polluting ones – on our roads. In Lambeth, we are determined to make a step change in how we move about our local areas, not only so it is safer for everyone to walk or cycle, but also to make our neighbourhoods healthier and much more enjoyable in which to live.
Our draft Transport Strategy, which went out to consultation before Christmas, sets out our framework. And we now have the opportunity over the next few years to demonstrate how we can create and encourage innovation at a more local level with our Brixton Liveable Neighbourhood project.
We are already providing the infrastructure to clean up our air and enable and encourage behaviour change in Lambeth. We have installed well over 100 electric vehicle charging points this year alone, and we plan to at least double that over the next few years.
We have installed green screens at primary schools on main roads, such as St Helen’s Primary and Loughborough Primary School so our children can play in their school playground without breathing filthy air.
We continue to provide cycle storage throughout the borough, continue with our tree planting programme and create healthy routes.
We welcome the Labour Mayor’s bold action to improve air quality. But we are in no doubt more needs to be done.
The plans as they currently stand are for the zone to be extended up to the south circular in 2021. Given the public health emergency with which we are faced as a result of the toxic air, here in Lambeth we will continue to lobby the Mayor of London for the ULEZ to cover the whole borough so that all of our residents are able to breathe in cleaner air.