East London councils back new powers for to tackle toxic air

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 October 2019

Pollution over London. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA.

Pollution over London. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Councils in east London have backed legislation that would give them more powers to combat air pollution.

The Emissions Reduction Act, drawn up by the City and put forward to the House of Lords on October 22, would give London councils the authority to designate "Air Quality Improvement Areas" in the most polluted zones.

Machinery like gas boilers and generators in those areas would have to keep within limits set by the home secretary (this wouldn't apply to equipment that's already in place). Boroughs would also have the power to ban diesel generators except in the event of an emergency.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tope said: "Cleaning up toxic air has to be one of the most important priorities for the public health of Londoners.

"These plans will give the capital's councils a real shot in the arm and help them take a significant step towards cleaner air."

Authorities in east London have broadly backed the prospect of the new powers to clean up the air in their boroughs.

A Newham Council spokeswoman said it welcomed the proposals. Newham's lead for the environment, highways and sustainable transport Cllr James Asser added: "Devolving decision making down to the local level is really important, here grassroots knowledge and local intelligence can really drive effective policy making to affect local levels of poor air quality."

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Tower Hamlets has also backed the legislation. Its mayor, John Biggs, said: "I welcome this call for more powers from central government.

"I've been calling for a new Clean Air Act giving us additional powers and funding so we can do even more to tackle pollution at a local level."

Both Newham and Tower Hamlets have formally declared a climate emergency.

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Darren Rodwell was more general in his support for the green initiative.

"I'm always in favour of making sure we have a planet that's fit for the future," he said.

"In east London, because of our blue collar past, our air quality is worse than other areas.

"It's also one of the reasons we have some of the lowest life expectancies in the capital."

In 2017, Barking and Dagenham had the lowest life expectancy of any London borough, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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