London pollution crisis: expanded low emission zone to cover Croydon and south Lewisham

ULEZ sign Pic: PA

Croydon and the southern half of Lewisham are to be included in the expanded London Ultra Low Emission Zone which comes into effect next year.

The ULEZ scheme will be extended across all London boroughs from August 29, 2023, which makes the zone 18 times larger, covering the whole of Greater London including boroughs like Croydon, Bromley and Barnet.

The announcement comes as campaigners for improved air quality in south London in memory of Ella Kissi-Debrah, the 9-year-old girl died in 2013 from complications of her asthma due to illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide, staged an exhibition and an animated projection on Lewisham Town Hall.

The Town Hall is next to the South Circular Road, the current boundary of the ULEZ in the borough and it is believed that the pollution levels on the road contributed to the death of Ella, who lived nearby.

However, not all local politicians are in favour of the expanded ULEZ. Jason Perry, the Conservative Mayor of Croydon, criticised the expansion, calling it a ‘hammer blow.’ In a statement, he said: “The ULEZ expansion would be a hammer blow to businesses and residents in Croydon…While we must improve London’s air quality, that work should not come at the cost of hitting families and businesses already struggling to make ends meet.” The Council said it will be working with other outer London boroughs to resist the expansion.

Phillip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, was more welcoming: “This announcement from the Mayor of London will extend the benefits of the ULEZ to all of London, further improve air quality in Hackney and help protect our residents from the harmful effects of the toxic air pollution.”

Since an initial expansion last year, the scheme now encompasses the entire area within the North and South Circular Roads. Hackney and Tower Hamlets as well as the northern part of Lewisham were covered.

The current ULEZ and the expansion (bottom right) Pic: TfL

The ULEZ was initially proposed under then Mayor Boris Johnson and introduced by Sadiq Khan in 2019 with the aim of making London “a zero pollution city” in central London, according to the Mayor of London. It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including weekends (except Christmas Day), with a £12.50 daily charge for vehicles that don’t meet the required emissions standards.

Transport for London estimated that on an average day about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans that use London’s roads would be liable for the £12.50 ULEZ fee after the expansion.

Claire Bonham, Councillor for Crystal Palace and Upper Norwood and clean air campaigner in Croydon, told Eastlondonlines: “I think it is clear that something is needed to help residents in Croydon, where pollution levels are high… Everyone should have a right to breathe clean air, wherever they live or work in our city.”

“However, I am concerned that this should only go hand-in-hand with more investment in public transport in places, like Croydon and other outer-London boroughs.” She added: “The time frame for its introduction is not long enough to give Croydon residents the time to adapt to the scheme, particularly in view of the cost-of-living crisis and the lack of detail around the scrappage scheme.”

Khan claimed that around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs. He described the ULEZ as “one of the toughest decisions I’ve taken” and claimed extending it will mean “five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives”.

A new scrappage scheme will be introduced with the expansion of the ULEZ, which will provide £110m to enable small businesses, charities and Londoners who are disabled or on low incomes to prepare for the arrival of the ULEZ. Eligible applicants can get up to £2,000 for scrapping a car or up to £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle.

Controversy has been raised since the scheme was introduced, with people complaining it pushed air pollution into non-ULEZ areas and caused inconvenience to people who need to drive.

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