Five areas of London will be targeted with pollution-cutting measures, under a new £11 million initiative from mayor Sadiq Khan.
The Low Emission Neighbourhoods aim to improve air quality with a range of measures, and should come into effect in 2019. Marylebone, City Fringe, Barbican, Greenwich and Ilford will benefit, while the neighbourhoods will impact on eight London boroughs.
The scheme has grown in scale since first imagined, with an initial £2m scheme for two areas proposed by Boris Johnson now expanded. Transport for London will be allocating £5 million, while the boroughs will put forward £6 million.
“Make no mistake: London is in the midst of an air quality crisis,” said Khan. “Air pollution is permanently affecting children’s lung development and nearly 10,000 Londoners are dying early every year due to the long-term exposure of London’s dirty air. We need urgent and bold action and this includes targeted local initiatives to tackle some of the worst pollution hotspots in London.
“The action we are taking in the capital is vital, but it’s imperative that our ambition is matched by Ministers. That’s why I’m also calling on Government Ministers to put in place incentives for people to switch to low-emission vehicles, as well as providing London with additional powers and funding to help tackle this public health crisis.”
In Westminster, the initiative will draw in Business Improvement District managers as well as local residents. There will be better management of taxi ranks, a focus on building emissions, and an electric vehicle delivery scheme run with logistics company UPS, consolidating freight.
In the City, there will be no-idling zones, restricted street access and green taxi ranks. And in Hackney, Islington and Tower Hamlets on the City fringe, the aim is to increase tree planting, and encourage walking and cycling by improving pavements and cycle routes.
Greenwich will be proposing car-free days in its centre, the development of mini-parks and emphasis on walking and cycling. In Redbridge and Newham, the idea is to build a green barrier to minimise the impact of road traffic.
Ben Plowden, TfL’s director of surface strategy and planning, added: “To tackle the Capital’s poor air quality we need a range of interventions both large and small. Low Emission Neighbourhoods are another piece of the jigsaw, taking a localised and holistic approach to cleaning up London’s air. Congratulations to the successful boroughs who have come up with some truly innovative initiatives.”
In Greenwich, councillor Danny Thorpe commented: “As well as physical changes to the environment with the creation of new community-focused streets and green spaces, the project will enable us to start new tech trials to encourage the take-up of cleaner/electric vehicles and see how we can better manage the freight and transport that flows through that particular area.”
Westminster’s commitment to look at building emissions comes as a Committee on Climate Change report noted planning policy does not take account of it potential role in reducing the heat island effect of large conurbations. The report says infrastructure and building designs need to consider their ability to adapt for changing climate, notably higher temperatures.
LPA Perspective: While positive steps should be welcomed, these proposals are not, in themselves, going to massively move the needle in London. And several of the proposals are simply a statement of what is already happening without any initiatives. Many of the Mercedes and BMWs used as taxis already have engines that cut out when stationary, technology that is spreading to vans, too; in contrast, London’s black taxis are still belching out fumes, and regulations to force them to clean up are slow to come.
Encouragement to walk and cycle is welcomed, and needs to be integrated by planners across the piece – from ensuring cycle parking is easy, to encouraging employers to provide showers. Simply painting some red paths on the pavement is not enough.
This announcement comes as electric car drivers are reeling from the news that new tariffs for recharging their vehicles at certain charging stations could potentially make them as expensive to run as diesel cars. But other experiments are on the way, to make it easier for Londoners to recharge electric cars on the street.
The other, big issue, is that of making buildings more efficient, so that they give out less heat. Again, here there are positive steps, with LED lighting gradually taking over and reducing power use, and heat output. Again, there needs to be a concerted effort from planners to look for low energy building – simply declaring a new office block “BREEAM excellent” is not enough.