Croydon’s air quality plans are not enough, say environmentalists

Friends of the Earth Croydon. Pic; Peter Underwood.

Friends of the Earth Croydon    Pic: Peter Underwood.

Plans to improve Croydon’s air quality, published by the council last week, do not go far enough in addressing the environmental problems of the borough, according to campaigners.

Eastlondonlines spoke to Peter Underwood, the chair of Croydon Friends of the Earth, to see if he thought the plans would have a positive impact on improving the quality of air for Croydoners.

In the report, the council outlined plans to launch an extensive consultation with residents, businesses and other stakeholders – including an air quality summit – as it prepares Croydon’s Draft Action Air Quality Plan 2017-22.

As a part of the consultation process, the plan will take into account the recommendations of the air quality scrutiny committee, which met on January 31.

Friends of the Earth Croydon. Pic; Peter Underwood.

Friends of the Earth Croydon.   Pic: Peter Underwood

The council’s proposals include a range of initiatives to both reduce pollution and minimise its impact, from reducing service deliveries and freight into the borough at certain times, to planting ‘green walls’ to filter harmful emissions outside schools and new developments.

Speaking about the differences the plan would make, Underwood told Eastlondonlines: “I am worried that we will not see any real action take place that will make a visible difference. None of this report consists of new ideas from Croydon, all factors in the report are existing plans but the council are legally required to update the report every five years. No money has been assigned for this at all.”

Croydon is well on its way to becoming a very significant borough in London with the constant redevelopments bringing new homes, offices and retail space.

Croydon Vision is a regeneration programme by the London Borough of Croydon. The programme seeks to effect urban planning extensively and promote Croydon as a hub of living, retailing, culture and business in south London.

So far, £3.5 billion has been pledged by private developers to put towards projects, with many more in the pipeline.

Friends of the Earth Croydon. Pic; Peter Underwood.

Friends of the Earth Croydon.      Pic: Peter Underwood

With many large companies now basing themselves in Croydon, including Bodyshop, EDF Energy, Superdrug and HMRC arriving this summer as well as Westfield opening in 2020, Croydon’s economic growth is at an all-time high.

Councillor Stuart King, Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment said: “Croydon’s residents and businesses have been fantastic in supporting us in our drive to clean up the streets through our Don’t Mess With Croydon campaign – now we are asking them to work with us to improve air quality. I hope everyone will get involved in helping us draw up our plan of action.”

Underwood disagrees, saying: “The council has no conscience of the environment at all, there is no evidence of any consideration to the environment. The redevelopment plans do not include any green spaces or solar panels which would help.”

With the aim of getting the Prime Minister’s backing for the Gatwick Expansion, in a joint letter to Theresa May last year the leaders of 11 councils including Croydon Council leader Tony Newman said: “If your government selects Gatwick as the location for a new runway, you can be assured of immediate and constructive support from this cross-party group of councils.

“We will work in partnership with you, your ministers, Gatwick and the London Mayor to support the airport’s growth and to unlock the benefits it offers across the skills, employment, transport, regeneration, housing and inward investment agendas.”

As the Gatwick Expansion plans get set to go ahead, Underwood believes the council are fixated on economic benefits and any reservations on air quality have been forgotten about: “Planting a few trees isn’t going to make up for all the council are doing.

“People need to be encouraged to use public transport. Money needs to be put into producing more cycle lanes and routes that would encourage the public to cycle and feel safe. So far Croydon has spent virtually nothing on cycle ways.

“If the council take a more serious approach in funding these plans, we would be happy to work with the council and be happy to put forward ideas to work together into helping the environment.”

Croydon Friends of the Earth has set up the Divest Croydon campaign to get Croydon Council to end all its investments in fossil fuels. You can access the petition here:

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