Councillor Heather Acton calls air quality a â€˜top issueâ€™ as she launches Westminsterâ€™s Greener City Action Plan
A Westminster city councillor has vowed to tackle air pollution on Central Londonâ€™s busy Oxford Street as the authority launches its environmental plan for the next 10 years.
However, Conservative councillor Heather Acton stopped short of fully supporting pedestrianisation of the popular shopping street â€“ unlike the candidates for both the Conservative and Labour parties in the forthcoming Mayoral elections, who have both voiced support for such a policy in recent weeks.
Speaking at an event this week (October 19) to launch the Westminsterâ€™s Greener City Action Plan, Cllr Acton â€“ who is the councilâ€™s cabinet member for parking and sustainability â€“ said â€œwe will find a solution for Oxford Streetâ€ with regards to its high levels of nitrogen dioxide, largely from buses.
However, while she said that â€œfor 10 years we have been asking TfL to reduce buses on Oxford Streetâ€ she added that â€œsome people and businesses do not want pedestrianisationâ€ and that a solution was therefore needed.
Cllr Acton said: â€œI would say that air pollution is one of the top three issues and it is something we need to focus on.â€
She also said that the Mayorâ€™s current plans for a ULEZ in Central London from 2020 were â€œtoo little too lateâ€, and that expanding the zone to include a wider area would help to benefit the centre of the city.
Westminsterâ€™s Greener City Action Plan (2015-2025) sets out the councilâ€™s â€œ10-year vision for how we will maintain and improve the environment for our residents, businesses and visitorsâ€, outlines 11 objectives, one of which is â€˜Improving local air qualityâ€™.
On this point, the Plan states the councilâ€™s aim to strengthen links between public health interventions and air quality, to complete the delivery of its 2013 Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) and to help deliver the Ultra Low Emission Zone in Central London from 2020.
In addition, it also states a commitment to â€œWork with TfL and property owners in air quality hotspots e.g. Oxford Street to reduce vehicle numbers and emissions from vehicles which service the areaâ€.
Cllr Acton said that Plan â€œprovides a framework in which we can all work togetherâ€ but that â€œsome of the targets still need to be setâ€.
Oxford Street regularly breaches national and European limits for air quality and was last year singled out by then Kingâ€™s College London academic David Carslaw for having NO2 levels among the â€œhighest in the worldâ€ (see AirQualityNews.com story).
Also speaking at the Westminster event this week, Clean Air in London campaigner Simon Birkett described the suggestion that some of Londonâ€™s streets were among the worst in the world for NO2 pollution as â€œreally quite shockingâ€.
He added: â€œIt is almost entirely from diesel fumes, although some is from domestic boilers. The solution for this is to ban diesel vehicles from the most polluted places in London.â€
Mr Birkett made positive noises about the Westminster strategy and said that he was â€œpleased to see Heather taking such a strong lineâ€, but added that â€œwe need a lot of actions across Westminsterâ€.
In particular, as well as calling for a â€œrevolutionâ€ in diesel use and regulation, he said: â€œWe must have a pedestrianised Oxford Street.â€
His views here align with the frontrunners to take over from Boris Johnson as London Mayor in the election next May â€“ Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Kahn, and Conservative MP for Richmond Zac Goldsmith â€“ who have both voiced support for making Oxford Street a no-go area for motor vehicles.
Mr Birkett said: â€œIt is going to be a particularly lively Mayoral election over the next few months.â€