Poor air quality ‘increasingly’ blighting Londoners’ lives

  • By Jourdan Wong-Mu...
Growing numbers of Londoners say poor air quality is having an impact on their daily lives, new polling data reveals, influencing where they choose to live and where they send their children to school. 
In a third year of polling research commissioned by London Councils to gauge the public’s understanding of air quality and the effects on their lives, more than half – 53 per cent – of respondents felt that their health had been impacted by London’s air quality, a six per cent rise from last year. 
More people than in previous years say that air pollution levels affects their choice of schools for their children – 60 per cent of parents in London say their decisions are affected by air pollution, a ten per cent rise from last year.
Overall there has been an increase in the proportion of people in London who say that air pollution influences their decisions, with 47 per cent of respondents saying it affects where they choose to live (up from 42 per cent last year). 
More people now view tackling air pollution as a priority than in 2016, with 82 per cent of respondents agreeing this was the case (compared to 76 per cent in 2016), with 45 per cent strongly agreeing.
Cllr Julian Bell, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said: 
“This data drives home the fact that Londoners are becoming more aware of the effects of air pollution and that it is having a bigger impact on our communities. A growing number of Londoners want more to be done to tackle this issue as pollution continues to worsen their health and restrict the choices people make.
“London boroughs are on the frontline of addressing the capital’s pollution problem. We work hard to incentivise walking and cycling, expand the network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and engage with the public on how they can reduce their air pollution impacts.
“Poor air quality affects everyone, which is why we will continue our efforts to create an environmentally sustainable and healthy future for the capital city. It is also everyone’s problem, which is why we want to work even more effectively with partners in London and central government to clean up London’s air.”
In order to drive improvements in London’s air quality, London Councils is calling on central government to:
  • Provide local authorities with increased enforcement and other powers plus financial support to effectively tackle air pollution, for example from appliances such as boilers, combined heat and power plants and generators, bonfires, wood burners, and engine idling.
  • Set new legal limits on air pollution – in line with (at least) the WHO levels and include provisions to update limits in the future;
  • Review and align the tax system (such as fuel duty and other relevant taxes) with air quality and other environmental priorities;
  • Ensure coherence with other relevant legislation now and in the future, especially around climate change and greenhouse gases to avoid any unintended negative consequences;
  • Do more to accelerate shift to zero emissions transport and increase modal shift to more active and sustainable modes of transport (e.g. walking and cycling).
Notes to editors:
This is the third year that London Councils has conducted specific air quality polling to find out how much Londoners know about pollution and the impact it has on their lives. 1005 Londoners took part in this online research in May (24/05/2018 - 29/05/2018).
Research conducted by Kantar TNS Research Express.
Case studies
Islington has a couple of activities planned for Clean Air Day and have organised an art competition with all the primary school children to design a clean air poster. Winning posters will be made into postcards and given out for free in local libraries. The posters will be displayed in an exhibition at Islington Museum, Central Library and at two other Clean Air Day events. One is in Archway, where there will be a pop up event on Navigator Square with Dr Bike, electric vehicle information and an idling event with full training for anyone who wants to learn how to talk to idlers. The second event is in Angel, between Goswell Road, City Road and Owen Street, where they will provide a free bikers’ breakfast to all who cycle past from 8am. Between 4 – 7pm, there will be a pop up event celebrating cleaner travel with Dr Bike, bike security tagging, fastest bike locking games and more. Also the Clean Air Walk, a low pollution route between Kings Cross and Angel, with an inaugural walk by the Mayor at midday. An online map of all the cleaner air routes across Islington will also be released on our website. 
The  Archway ZEN programme and tri-borough CityFringe ZEN programme (with Hackney and Tower Hamlets) are helping local businesses and residents switch to electric travel where possible and helping more people onto and feeling safe on bikes.  
There will be anti-idling events with primary schools and with Idling Action London to help educate and bring awareness to idling, especially in relation to our schools. Idlers is Islington can now be issued a £20 fine via our Compliance Team. The council have also provided cleaner air walking maps and monitoring for several schools to help them make healthier choices when travelling to and from school.
A consultation has been put together for School Streets, a programme for closing the streets outside primary schools during drop off and pick up times to encourage more walking and create a cleaner and safer environment for the students.
There are over 130 pollution monitoring tubes across the borough to help us gain a clearer picture of our pollution levels. These include at least one outside of every primary school. These get analysed by Kings College London.
Wandsworth Council has a package of measures already in place to reduce air pollution and will be actively supporting Clean Air Day.  The Council is supporting the Putney BID as they get out and about and invite residents to make pledges to do their bit to help reduce pollution. An event is being held in Tooting on Saturday 23rd to encourage people to leave their cars at home. Council officers will be in the town centre offering advice, handing out information leaflets and giving out goodies and a chance to ride a smoothie bike as this is a fun and engaging way to encourage active travel.  A similar event will be held at a local hospital during the following week.
There will also be a string of events in borough schools this month teaching young people about reducing air pollution. There will be workshops provided by theatre groups and games to teach children how we can all help to improve air quality. We will also be working with contractors in Nine Elms to help get the word out about Clean Air Day. Air quality in Nine Elms has improved dramatically recently thanks to close and effective working with the companies building the new homes, offices and shops. This close partnership will see the introduction of three new green living walls across the Nine Elms development area. Wandsworth is a member of the London Low Emission Construction Partnership (LLECP), working with other London boroughs and Kings College London to reduce the air quality impacts from building work. Several sites in Nine Elms have been working with the LLECP on dust and emission reduction trials and increasing their use of sustainable plant and machinery on site. 
Kingston council will launch this year’s annual report from Kingston’s Director of Public Health that  focuses on air quality. Educators, business leaders, health services and councillors will launch the report, followed by a morning workshop to help develop proposals for making our air cleaner.
Attendees will have the opportunity to:
  • Meet local businesses and students who’ve created innovative pollution projects
  • Hear about Kingston University’s hybrid bus scheme
  • Try out the National Clean Air Day air pollution VR experience
  • Give their bike a health check, with free minor repairs from Dr Bike
  • Learn about the Beat the Street programme to help people walk more
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