West End retailers launch 12-point plan to tackle capital’s air pollution hotspot

Retailers and property companies in London are joining forces to back Mayor Sadiq Khan’s campaign to improve air quality in the capital.

New West End Company (NWEC), a coalition of more than 600 businesses operating in the heart of London, has launched what it bills as the first ever business-led scheme to drive improvements in air quality across London’s West End.

London has some of the worst air quality in Europe, and long-term exposure contributes to the deaths of 9,500 Londoners every year, according to the Mayor’s office. People living, working and visiting London’s premier shopping mecca are among the worst affected. The coalition points out that Oxford Street surpassed the annual limit of NO2emissions for 2015 within the first four days of the year.

A ‘public health emergency’

Khan, who was elected in May on a platform of tackling London’s “public health emergency”, was quick to unveil an action plan on air quality. The mayor’s proposals include a £10 charge for the most polluting vehicles, introducing the central London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) one year earlier than planned in 2019 and extending it beyond central London from 2020. He also wants to push the government to fund a diesel scrappage scheme, which would allow motorists to trade in their polluting diesel vehicles for cleaner cars at a lower cost.

London plans an ultra low emissions zone

According to the Mayor’s office itwould be the “toughest crackdown on the most polluting vehicles by any major city around the world”. 

At a conference to launch the coalition’s air quality strategy at the end of June, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Val Shawcross, said the administration was looking forward to working with businesses to tackle the issue.

Steven Medway, managing director for trading environment at NWEC, said the coalition supports the measures the Mayor has proposed, including the £10 charge on the most polluting vehicles. “Ultimately we’ve got a goal of reducing air pollution by 2020 so any measures that help impact that we would support.”

Retailers great and small

The West End coalition’s air quality strategy sets out 12 “scalable, implementable actions”. These include the introduction of a buyers’ club to pool purchasing power and consolidate deliveries from suppliers; low-emission delivery vehicles; minimisation of waste collections; green infrastructure to help filter air pollutants; cutting emissions from on-site energy generation; low-emission building design; a closed door policy in shops to increase energy efficiency; cycle-friendly workplaces; encouraging visitors to use low-emission modes of transportation; and sharing best practice. The coalition aims for a 40% reduction in commercial vehicle trips and a 10% reduction in air pollution in the Business Improvement District (BID) by 2020. It will also be involved in implementing one of the five ultra low emission neighbourhoods the mayor wants to be in effect by the beginning of 2019.

Medway says the coalition wants to involve companies large and small, “from the small newsagents on Regent Street all the way up to the John Lewis department store”.

The strategy was prepared on behalf of NWEC by Cross River Partnership, a public-private regeneration initiative backed by Westminster City Council and Lambeth Council.

Simon Alcock of environmental pressure group ClientEarth praised the proposed ULEZ expansion as “a bold step in the right direction” and welcomed the NWEC move. “It is great to see businesses doing more to tackle air quality. They have a major role to play if we are to create a cleaner, healthier city,” he said.

Denise Delaney, senior manager at think tank and strategic consultancy SustainAbility, agreed. “We are learning more and more about local air quality and pollution,” she said. “As we do, we expect companies to be responsive to where they can be part of the solution to improve air quality where they operate."

pollution  emissions  ULEZ  NWEC  strategy  partnership  sustainability 

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