Air pollution ‘worse in outer London’

Calls for a further expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, reports Joe Talora, Local Democracy Reporter

The Ultra Low Emission Zone was expanded to the North Circular in October, but not beyond it
The Ultra Low Emission Zone was expanded to the North Circular in October, but not beyond it

City Hall has published figures from Imperial College London that show air pollution is falling more slowly in outer London than in central London.

The data also shows outer London also has more deaths that could be attributed to poor air quality.

It comes as the mother of a nine-year-old girl who died as a result of air pollution said that the problem “is dramatically worse” in London, almost a decade on from her daughter’s death.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lived close to the South Circular Road in Lewisham, became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death following a court case in 2020.

Ella’s mother Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who has tirelessly campaigned for improvements to air quality in London, was a guest speaker at a meeting of the London Assembly’s environment committee on Thursday.

Discussing the issue of increasing traffic and congestion in London, Rosamund said that “we have actually made this situation even worse”, adding, “shame on us”.

She said: “As I walked [Ella’s] siblings to the cemetery we actually stopped for a moment and looked at the South Circular. This was at about 10 o’clock. It was absolutely gridlocked. Nothing was moving. When my daughter was alive it wasn’t even that bad, so things have got dramatically worse, and especially in the last two years.

“The only thing I said to them – and they looked at me with puppy eyes – is ‘you’re going to have to go back to court to make sure something is done about this’.”

She added that the Mayor of London was part of the inquest into Ella’s death and is “well aware of what actually needs to be done” and that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) becoming London-wide “was something the experts actually recommended”.

Ulez was expanded to cover the areas up to, but not including, the north and south circular roads in October last year.

Elliot Treharne, City Hall’s head of air quality, told the London Assembly that the expansion of the Ulez has led to “benefits across London” in terms of improvements to air quality, but that “there is further action that is needed”.

Earlier this month, Sadiq Khan revealed radical plans to introduce a “clean air charge” that could see drivers pay up to £2 a day to drive a petrol or diesel car in London, as well as potential plans to expand the Ulez to cover the entirety of Greater London.

The announcement came following research that showed car journeys in London needed to be reduced by 27% by 2030 if the capital is to achieve net zero.

Khan said that he is “not willing to put off action” to tackle air pollution despite it being “politically inconvenient” and that he is “determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers”.

He said: “Air pollution still remains a major public health challenge and I’m not willing to stand by and wait when there’s more we can do in outer London that could make a big difference. We simply don’t have time to waste, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and affecting older people who are more vulnerable to the impacts of air pollution.

“This is also a matter of social justice – with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest. Londoners on lower incomes are more likely to live in areas of the city most badly affected by air pollution and are least likely to own a car.  Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing.”