Clean air or hot air? The council has not done enough to reduce pollution

borisbikesw-300x225One of the achievements of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London is that the air we breathe is cleaner. The bad news is that each year in this borough 72 of us are still killed by air pollution.

So what can Hammersmith and Fulham Council do about it? I blogged recently about electric cars. Westminster Council provide free parking permits for them. Hammersmith and Fulham Council doesn’t. It should.

Also there are 1,400 electric charging points that have been added across London’s 32 boroughs in the past three years. Yet at present Hammersmith and Fulham has no on-street charging points. (There are charging points at Charing Cross Hospital, King’s Mall car park and Westfield Shopping Centre but the Council has been dragging its feet.)

The Council has just announced plans for ten charging points early next year and ten more by the end of next year. That is welcome but more is needed. We are playing catch up while our residents are left wheezing.

Also what about the Council setting an example? I recently asked how many cars the council owns and leases and how many of them are electric or hybrid vehicles. The Council has 11 cars and none of them are electric or hybrid.

Encouraging electric cars is only part of what is needed.

The Council could use Section 106 money to expand the number Boris Bikes docking stations.

At present the Council backs the £300 million Counters Creek relief sewer. The building works for that would increase pollution. But if the money was to be spent on SUDS schemes instead that would be a better way to reduce the risk of flooding. That is because SUDS would also reduce air pollution – for example with “green roofs”, “permeable pavements” or simply replacing concrete with grass and trees. £300 million on SUDS would be transformational.

Another huge opportunity would be the flyunder – yet the Council has allowed progress on this to drift.

Then there is dust suppressant spray. I have written about this before. It involves retrofitting a salt gritter which costs around £70,000 a time and can provide a significant reduction in PM10 – the dust which we inhale into our respiratory tracts and which impedes our lung capacity. Depending on the frequency of respraying and the type of site chosen air pollution is reduced by something between a quarter and a half.

At a recent Council meeting Cllr Adam Connell said he thought use of the spray was a “pritt stick” treatment. It was “a waste of public money because the moment they stop the spraying the problem happens again”.

Given that Cllr Connell is Chairman of the Planning Committee his view is particularly unfortunate. One of the most important uses of the spray is to require its regular use is funded by property developers during construction work.

But why stop the spraying? Why doesn’t the Council regular dust spraying given what is relatively the very low cost? If the roads need to be sprayed again every couple of weeks, then spray them every couple of weeks.

Cllr Connell’s logic is flawed. He wouldn’t say to his dustman: “Don’t bother emptying my bin as I will only fill it up again” or to the road sweepers: “Don’t bother sweeping my street there will be more litter dropped by next week anyway.”

It is not enough for the Council to say how concerned they are about air pollution. The time for virtue signalling is over. It is time for some serious action.

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