Westminster council’s cabinet member for environment, Councillor David Harvey, has called on government to set tougher air quality standards after the UK has left the European Union.
The councillor was speaking at a fringe event organised by the authority at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday (2 October), titled ‘Creating a greener city’, at which he outlined measures that Westminster council has taken to tackle air pollution in the borough.
He added that, after the UK has left the EU, government will need to establish a ‘powerful regulator’ to ensure that government is held to account over its air quality standards.
He said: “You’ve got to have a way of holding parliamentarians to account. From my own point of view, I’d like to see something like an air quality commission, a powerful voice independent of government that would work across government.
“There should be a mandate across government to look at environment, to look at air quality in every department and there should be a powerful regulator to hold government to account and that should be backed by parliament. That would provide that independence that we currently get from Brussels.
“We also want to look at standards and we want to be tougher, that means World Health Organisation standards rather than the Euro standards. Put simply those are not good enough.â€?
During the event he outlined a number of the initiatives that the borough has implemented in a bid to improve air quality, including the ‘Don’t Be Idle’ campaign, which has sought to reduce engine idling by drivers.
The council has also piloted a surcharge for drivers of diesel cars to park in some areas of the borough.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company – a partnership of 600 retail, restaurant and hotel businesses across Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street – also addressed the event, outlining work that the organisation had been involved in to consolidate commercial traffic in the area.
This included the establishment of the West End Buyers Club, a preferred supplier scheme for businesses in the West End to reduce the movement of vehicles for services such as waste collection and deliveries.
Speaking on behalf of businesses, Mr Tyrrell said: “There are a lot of local initiatives but also there is a national agenda. We need to think about business rates and how this links to business incentives to bring forward policies such as green energy, use of buildings; perhaps the government could look at some sort of incentives through rates relief to bring forward some programmes in that area.â€?
Also speaking during the event, London’s deputy mayor for transport, Val Shawcross, discussed a number of the policies being rolled out across the capital to tackle air pollution, including the introduction of a T-charge in central London this month, followed by an Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2019.
She said: “At a London-wide level we have a responsibility to tackle the sources of this air pollution crisis, using the GLA’s resources in a way that a single borough can’t. The previous mayor had flagged that he wanted an ultra-low emission zone and we have picked it up and run with it, because the crisis has become deeper and wider and we’ve become more aware of it.â€?