Local authorities need greater powers to combat non-traffic sources of air pollution, according to a debate heard in the House of Lords this week.
London Councils, which represents the capital’s 32 London boroughs and the City of London Corporation, is supporting amendments to the Environment Bill which would enable councils to limit toxic emissions from boilers, construction machinery and diesel generators. The City of London Corporation, the governing body of the Square Mile, also supports the amendments.
During the latest debate on the Environment Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Tope, Co-President of London Councils, argued for amendments to give councils across the country new powers to control air pollution where World Health Organisation (WHO) limits are exceeded.
“Air pollution is a serious national problem which affects us all and contributes to up to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year,” Lord Tope said in the debate, which fell on the 65th anniversary of the first national Clean Air Act gaining Royal Assent in 1956.
Although local authorities have a statutory duty to reduce emissions, they do not currently have the powers to intervene and stop polluting activities in order to meet their emissions targets. Councils are keen to work with government on this crucial issue.
Mayor Philip Glanville, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said:
“Tackling London’s toxic air pollution remains a significant priority for London’s boroughs and Londoners. Air pollution in London is a public health crisis that significantly affects people’s physical and mental health, exacerbating current health conditions, stopping some people from doing routine activities and even contributing to more than 9,000 deaths in the capital a year.
“This comes at a huge personal cost that disproportionately affects low-income and Londoners from our diverse ethnic minority communities, but also contributes to around £3.7 billion of costs per year for the NHS in London alone.
“We are working closely with the City of London Corporation and Lord Tope to lobby government for amendments to the Environment Bill. This includes asking for local authorities to receive additional powers to help enforce the Clean Air Act. The current legislation is complicated and difficult to enforce and not tough enough to tackle London’s air quality challenge.”
Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Port Health & Environmental Services Committee, Keith Bottomley, said:
“Local authorities have been given the statutory responsibility to improve air quality, but they have very few regulatory controls. These essential measures would give them tough new powers to deal with non-transport related air pollution.
“Londoners want to see a major improvement in air quality and their councils need the ability to take bold and practical steps to combat air pollution at a local level.”
In order to drive improvements in London’s air quality, London Councils is also making the following policy recommendations:
- Government should adopt the World Health Organisation target for PM2.5 as a legal limit to be met no later than 2030 and introduced as soon as is possible.
- Government should introduce additional regulatory powers for local authorities to control emissions from appliances, such as gas and solid fuel boilers, combined heat and power plants, construction machinery and standby diesel generators.
- Government should create a national £1.5 billion Clean Air Fund to enable cities to implement Clean Air Zones and tackle emissions, including through vehicle scrappage and retrofit schemes.