Southwark - please do more to tackle air pollution!

Traffic on Dog Kennel Hill SE22.jpgAir pollution is a recognised public health emergency. Southwark Council needs to take action. Or rather, actions. There’s no one solution, but the actions taken need to be both immediate and substantial.

Southwark is consulting on its updated air quality plan. Responses need to be in by 31 January. Southwark Green Party will submit a detailed response and publish it here.  But in short – we think the plan talks a lot about meetings and monitoring and not enough about ideas and action!

We encourage you to respond individually. It’s a very simple form - the one question is quite open: ‘What do you have to say about the Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan?’ So why not use this space to explain to the council how air pollution affects you and why you want the council to do more? Please copy your response to us too at [email protected]

Read on for some suggestions about what councils can do…

  • Southwark Council – you can set the standard

Diesel is the biggest villain in transport. Diesel was categorised as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) by the World Health Organisation in 2012. Nearly 40 per cent of all NOx emissions and PM10 pollution within London comes from diesel vehicles. Doctors against Diesel have marshalled the evidence.

Southwark Council owns a fleet of vehicles and many more are owned by companies working for Southwark such as Veolia, Conway and Mears. Southwark Council should stop the purchase of any diesel vehicles (other than for operationally critical reasons) for its own fleet, and in all its future contracts with suppliers.

As Griff Witte of the Washington Post says: "We must #BanDiesel like Paris, Madrid and Athens and as we banned coal 60 years ago".

  • Southwark Council – we need you to help us walk and cycle

The motorised school run leads to congestion and pollution near schools. Children want to walk, cycle or scoot – it’s more fun, and it’s proven to improve cognitive function. But for many parents and teachers, cycling to school just doesn’t feel safe enough. Start with the schools. Make sure there are no idling cars sitting outside, and that you can get there on quiet routes that are safe all the way and properly joined up. Create traffic free residential areas.

Unbelievably, Southwark Council encouraged people to drive to the shops during the last air pollution spike in December 2016, tweeting: 'To help you #shoplocal this festive season we've waived Pay and Display charges on Saturdays across December'.

Instead, Southwark could help us #shoplocal with TfL funding for a ‘mini Holland’ pedestrianised shopping street and cargo bike delivery services, as in Waltham Forest.

  •  More information NOW

When Southwark Green Party petitioned Southwark Council back in 2012, triggering the first full council discussion of air pollution, we asked the council to publicise information services, specifically Airtext, to residents so they could take action to reduce their own exposure. We asked them to tell headteachers about Airtext so they could look out for more vulnerable pupils on ‘bad air days’. But we couldn’t see any signs of action. By 2016, there were only 258 people across the borough signed up to AirText.

The new report promises a ‘plan’ for an ‘awareness raising programme to be devised by April 2018’. Come on! 18 months to devise a plan? Other people have already done all the work to create websites and apps such as AirText and Walkit

Publicising them is the easy bit. The information could be in the signature of every email Southwark Council employees send. It could be on every council tax bill. It could be on the front page of the website. It could be on the waiting message on the switchboard. Do it now, Southwark!


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