Politics and pollution: which party will save Tower Hamlets’ air?

London is infamous for its air pollution problem. Pic; (Wikimedia Commons)

London is infamous for its air pollution problem           Pic: (Wikimedia Commons)

With the general election fast approaching, Eastlondonlines spoke to representatives of the four main political parties to hear their plans for cleaner air in Tower Hamlets and other parts of London.

The borough is home to nearly 300,000 residents and is one of the most polluted areas in the city, with the fourth highest mortality rate related to air pollution.

Worryingly, as we reported last year, over 60 per cent of schools and colleges in the borough are exposed to dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

The government is currently seeking to delay publishing its plan to tackle air pollution until after the general election after a 2016 court ruling said that existing measures proposed by the government didn’t meet the requirements of law.

In light of the upcoming election, we spoke to the Tower Hamlets representatives for the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Green and Conservative parties to give a firm idea of what each party proposes to do about the issue.

Above shows the fraction of deaths in those 30+ related to long-term exposure to air pollution (specifically particle pollution – PM2.5) in London. Bromley is the borough with the lowest rate and City of London has the highest. Tower Hamlets is the fourth worst, after Kensington and Westminster. Date source: NHS England

Liberal Democrats

Elaine Bagshaw, the Lib Dem candidate for Poplar and Limehouse, spoke to Eastlondonlines about the party’s plans to combat air pollution in Tower Hamlets and London.

She said: “To tackle air pollution we want to see a big switch towards zero emission electric buses and taxis, not diesel hybrids. This is particularly important in London where there is significant public transport infrastructure.

“We continue to oppose all airport expansion in the south of the country; the Enderby Wharf development; and the Silvertown tunnel crossing due to the further increases in air pollution this would create, particularly in Tower Hamlets.

“We would invest in public transport infrastructure and safe cycling routes to change people’s behaviour so that they’re no longer dependent on polluting cars for travel.” – Elaine Bagshaw

Bagshaw added that there will be more details available when the Lib Dem manifesto is released next week.


Labour Party

Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Rushanara Ali, told Eastlondonlines of the party’s plans to tackle air pollution in the borough.

She said: “The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has taken real leadership when it comes to tackling London’s toxic levels of air pollution.

“He has doubled the funding for improving London’s air quality, he will soon be introducing a £10 toxicity charge to apply to the oldest and most polluting vehicles in Central London, and has made a commitment of £300 million to retrofit thousands of London’s most polluting buses.

“Perhaps most importantly, the Mayor will introduce a ‘Low Emission Neighbourhood Zone’ in Tower Hamlets, a pollution hot stop, by the start of 2019, a hard-hitting measure to tackle toxic air quality and emission fumes.”- Rushanara Ali

“Like many other London Labour MPs, I spent years lobbying the previous Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action in Tower Hamlets. What I saw was a Mayor in denial of the problem, especially in the worst affected areas, a Mayor who ignored the life-threatening effects of pollution for each and every resident in Tower Hamlets.

“Now we thankfully have a Mayor taking this public health emergency seriously – a Labour Government would not only support the Mayor of London in his fight on air pollution in the capital, but match the Mayor’s ambitious and decisive action nationally, unlike this Conservative government who we have seen week after week try to delay its publication of the UK’s clean air plan.” 

Green Party

A representative for Tower Hamlets Green Party, Alistair Polson, spoke to Eastlondonlines about the party’s plans to combat London’s air pollution problem.

“London’s dirty air is a silent killer. It contributes to the deaths of 4,000 Londoners a year – that’s 76 every week or more than 10 every day. Tower Hamlets has some of the most polluted areas in London. Whitechapel High Street has the dirtiest air in the country. Our schools and nurseries have some of the dirtiest air in the country, including the absolute worst of all.”- Alistair Polson

“Far from taking the decisive action necessary, London’s Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has green lighted the Silvertown Tunnel which will lead to a huge increase in traffic down the roads of Tower Hamlets. He has not set a date for the hugely delayed, so called, ‘Ultra Low Emissions Zone’ (which of course is no such thing, but at least an improvement!).

“The Green Party is the only party which has a plan to solve this urgent public health emergency.”

The Green Party plans to:

  • Improve public transport: build the Bakerloo Line south eastern extension, build Crossrail 2, take rail back into public ownership instead of renewing contracts to failing private companies.
  • Build the Rotherhithe walking/cycling bridge
  • Dramatically increase the availability of electric vehicle charging points
  • Help London Taxis to move to non-polluting vehicles
  • Promote cycling and walking
  • Push for credible and comprehensible labelling of new vehicle emissions to help those who want to do the right thing
  • Cancel the Silvertown Tunnel
  • Close City Airport
  • Cancel the Enderby Wharf ferry terminal
  • Establish a scrappage scheme to get the most polluting cars off our roads
  • Increase parking charges for the most polluting vehicles

 Conservative Party

Tower Hamlets Conservative councillor Andrew Wood, gave Eastlondonlines an idea of what residents can expect, should his party stay in power after the general election.

He said: “We still do not have a joined-up approach to thinking about the impacts of air pollution at a local, regional and national level.

“For example, the Council rebuilt Woolmore Primary School right next to the worst air pollution spot in Tower Hamlets the Blackwall tunnel. The Council then proposed to reopen Bromley Hall as a primary school even though it is metres away from the A12 until repeated questions and the motion from us about the air quality there forced its removal.

“Due to the Executive Mayor system in Tower Hamlets locally we have no control over policy, our role is to point out when the Council is making a mistake and to hold them to account.

“So, our main policy locally is to try and ensure the Council does not build or expand new schools right next to major sources of pollution. This is a perfect example of where you can have all of the policies in the world but without thinking about the real-world consequences of decisions like this they are pointless.”



  1. Audie Claude Brown May 3, 2017
  2. Audie Claude Brown May 3, 2017

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