London mayor vows to combat air pollution during school visit

Green fingered: London mayor Sadiq Khan and pupils on the roof of Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School

Newly-elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan promised to clean up London’s toxic air during a visit today to Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School in Aldgate, but critics point out his support for the expansion of City Airport which will bring more air and noise pollution.

Mr Khan, who revealed he had recently started suffering from asthma, said many “pollution hotspots” are around schools, exposing children to dangerously polluted air and putting them at risk of respiratory disease.

He promised to launch a formal policy consultation on measures to tackle air pollution, set to begin in a matter of weeks.

Proposals in the consultation will include extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North and South Circular roads, introducing ULEZ standards for heavy vehicles entering London, and implementing a levy on the most polluting vehicles entering London from 2017.

The £12.50 levy would be on top of the congestion charge and is expected to include cars, vans and lorries.

Other proposed measures include a diesel scrappage scheme, clean bus corridors, expanding the ULEZ retrofit programme to 3,000 buses outside the central zone (up from 2,000) and bringing in ULEZ standards for TfL double decker buses a year early.

Announcing the consultation, Mr Khan said he had been elected with a “clear mandate to clean up London’s air”.

He added: “The previous mayor was too slow on this issue and the government has been hopelessly inactive and it’s Londoners who are suffering as a result.

“We need to speed up our efforts so I’ll be launching a consultation before the summer to kick-start the process. As well as my proposals, I’ll be seeking views on other ways we can do more to clean up the city’s air.

“In the past, London has only responded after an emergency, like with the Clean Air Act, which followed the Great London Smogs of the 1950s.

“I want to act before an emergency, which is why we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to meet the scale of the challenge.”

However Mayor Sadiq Khan’s announcement was met with some criticism by those who regard his support for the expansion of City airport as incompatible with his aim of cleaning up the capital’s air.

Newly-elected Green party London Assembly member Caroline Russell said: “While I warmly welcome the Mayor’s intention to expand the ULEZ to the North and South Circular, it’s essential that all outer London boroughs should also have the ability to opt in right from the beginning.

“There are a lot of heavily polluted main roads beyond the ring road where residents will want cleaner air.

“People in East London will also want to know why he is helping City Airport to expand. All the extra flights and traffic will create huge amounts of noise and air pollution.”

Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School, which is located close to the border between Tower Hamlets and the City of London, has delivered a number of green initiatives including a roof garden, as the school is close to busy roads and in an area known for high pollution levels.

Pupils plant flowers on the roof garden and helped decorate an air pollution monitoring station in their playground.