- PIPPA CRERAR
- Friday 20 January 2017
Sadiq Khan‘s environment czar today warned the Government not to ignore the “overwhelming call for action” on London’s toxic air.
Setting out plans for innovative green “neighbourhoods of the future”, Shirley Rodrigues said Londoners “can’t afford to wait” for major air quality initiatives and the Mayor needed to crack on with everything in his arsenal. It comes after a toxic air “red alert” was issued yesterday, with health experts urging those with lung or heart problems to consider reducing strenuous activity. Pollution was forecast to be “moderate” today. In her first interview as deputy mayor for the environment, Ms Rodrigues set out plans for six local schemes, with £2.5 million funding, that will test future technology that could be rolled out across the country.
They include a neighbourhood zero emission zone, “electric streets” with a high concentration of vehicle charging points, ultra-low emission lorry trials, sustainable urban drainage and a rapid-charging “green” taxi rank.
Hammersmith and Fulham, Heathrow, City fringes, Harrow, Croydon, Sutton and Haringey will all benefit. “Tackling London’s air quality is a public health emergency that requires bold action at all levels of government,” she said.
Ms Rodrigues defended the T-charge, which it emerged last week would have a minimal impact on pollution, as a first step towards an expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone. “We need to be taking the action we can with the powers the Mayor has. Individually, some measures have less impact than others but as a package they’ll have a great impact,” she claimed.
Ms Rodrigues denied that diesel drivers, many who bought vehicles with the encouragement of the last Labour government, were being penalised. “Looking at health impacts, I don’t think it’s a penalty, it’s that we must take action.”
She has lobbied the Government to scrap diesel incentives, devolve control of vehicle excise duty, bring in a diesel scrappage scheme and offer incentives for cleaner vehicles in the Budget.
A London Assembly report yesterday said the C-charge was no longer “fit for purpose”, suggesting a Singapore-style road pricing system instead. Ms Rodrigues, who can drive but does not own a car, was cautious about revealing the Mayor’s plans for gridlocked roads.
She worked at City Hall in Ken Livingstone’s environment team, but left in Boris Johnson’s first year as mayor and suggests London lost its way on the environment during his tenure.