Speaking at Last night’s Council meeting, Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Built Environment spokesperson, said:
“As a Marylebone Road resident for over 40 years, I know how polluted our city is. You don’t need facts and figures you just have to smell the air and it is pretty disgusting and very unhealthy.
In Westminster, road traffic is responsible for up to 70% of all air pollution. In 2008, across London, more than 4,000 premature deaths directly resulted from levels of air pollution.
The ‘Clean Air in London’ campaign says that more than 7,000 people a year are now dying prematurely as a result of toxic air. The level of childhood asthma is now far higher than ever before.
It gives me no pleasure to say that parts of Westminster have the filthiest air of any European capital. The air pollution on Oxford Street is among the most polluted streets in the entire world.
One fact says it all. Oxford Street managed to breach the hourly limit on nitrogen dioxide for the whole of 2015 by 4 January, that’s just four days.
The need to improve air quality is recognised in EU legislation. As part of that legislation, member states are required to prepare plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide to acceptable levels by 2015. But the UK has failed to do so. DEFRA estimates that in the Greater London area, those limits will not be met until after 2030.
So what has the Mayor been doing about this? Since proposing the ultra-low emission zone nearly two years ago, Boris Johnson has gone backwards. Waiting until 2020 to introduce the zone is costing lives. And it is costing money, our money. We spend £16 billion a year treating the adverse effects of air pollution. Think of the public expenditure savings that we could reap, the lives we could save and the debt we could cut.
We need a real change in our priorities so that we put sustainability, low energy consumption and efficient waste reduction at the top of our list.
I am not anti-car and I recognise that it is not just about reducing the number of motor vehicles on our roads. But reducing the number of cars and cleaning up their fuel sources would lead to big improvements.
We need to incentivise the use of electric cars and take steps to decrease the number of diesel vehicles on our roads, perhaps through extra charges to enter the Congestion Charge zone in a diesel powered vehicle and higher parking charges for diesel cars.
With Westminster’s resident and daytime population growing year on year, we have no more time to waste on reducing air pollution.
A Westminster with cleaner air and more use of renewable energy, a Westminster that is a safe city for cyclists and pedestrians, is an achievable reality – but only if we have the political will to act. It is time to get serious about this before the task becomes so great that it becomes impossible to deal with. That time is now.”