'War on car drivers': What does Havering think of the possible ULEZ expansion?
- Credit: PA/Havering Council/David Woolfall/Archant/HM Government
Havering politicians across the divide have largely condemned the proposal to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to include all of Greater London.
The mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week (March 4) announced that he has asked Transport for London (TfL) to consult on expanding the ULEZ in 2023, which would affect drivers out as far as Havering.
In a speech, he said he is determined that “we continue to be doers, not delayers in London”, and that the scheme would help tackle both the health and financial costs of air pollution in the capital.
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell (Con) said he believes the extension would be another step in the mayor’s “war on car drivers”.
“Sadiq Khan talks a lot about pollution and air quality but if he was really serious, he would do something to sort out the pollution in the River Thames," he claimed.
“This just amplifies how this is all a show while he really targets car drivers.”
London Assembly Member for Havering and Redbridge, Keith Prince (Con), who wrote a column for this paper against a previous expansion of the ULEZ, said the extension would see many communities “cut in half”, with businesses facing by a cost they are not prepared for.
"Our businesses in Romford rely on people coming in from Essex. This will impact not only London but all of the surrounding home counties who did not get a say in electing this mayor,” he said.
While supporting the need to decrease pollution in the capital, Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas (Lab) said he was also concerned about how the scheme would impact local residents.
He believes it would “disproportionately hit those people and small businesses least able to afford the daily charges, and could become a tax on working people in the middle of an unprecedented cost of living squeeze facing my constituents this year”.
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Cllr Damien White (Con), leader of Havering Council, said that while the local authority wishes to improve air quality, this "smacks as a way of raising money for a cash-strapped TfL”.
Havering's Labour Group leader, Cllr Keith Darvill, concurred that air quality is not what it should be, but rather than extending the ULEZ, suggested initiatives such as improving public transport and installing more electric vehicle charging points should be prioritised.
The mayor’s office states that potential mitigations will be considered as part of an impact assessment on the proposals.
Air pollution in Havering
Dirty air will affect both the health and finances of the capital, according to the mayor of London’s office.
Traffic emissions are resulting in nearly 4,000 premature deaths a year, with a release from the mayor stating the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution are in areas which the ULEZ does not currently cover.
According to Greater London Authority (GLA) data, Havering is among the boroughs with the smallest drop in road transport NOx emissions in percentage terms between 2013 and 2019.
Compared to the City of London’s table-topping decrease of 55.7 per cent, Havering achieved a reduction of 30.1pc, the fourth lowest in London.
GLA figures also highlight Havering as the borough with the highest number of deaths attributable to air pollution as a proportion of its population, with a lower estimate of 0.057pc in 2019.
David Hughes, the Havering Green Party candidate in Cranham, said while the ULEZ expansion would be a blow to those who invested in a diesel vehicle and were expecting years of use, the introduction of the scheme was “inevitable”.
"Making our transport more efficient and cleaner is surely the way to go," he added.
The potential expansion of the ULEZ drew concern from locals in Elm Park.
Delivery driver, Ancil Franklyn, 46, said he sees it as a “money-making thing”.
He relayed a story of a friend living in Walthamstow who had to give up driving when the ULEZ expanded last year, saying he "just commutes [by public transport] now”.
If the plans do go ahead, Ancil said it would “hurt people in their pocket, and they would probably switch to public transport”.
He believes business costs incurred due to the ULEZ could be shifted onto customers, saying: “That’s going to affect people."
Ken Gibson, 74, said the proposed ULEZ expansion coinciding with the rising cost of living means it would largely penalise the poor.
While public transport around Elm Park is good, he said consideration needs to be given to the accessibility of train and bus routes if high-emitting vehicles are to be penalised in the future.
He said: “My wife’s got mobility issues, so she can’t walk to a bus stop. I’ll have to drive her to a bus stop or to the station.
“It’s not so much whether we’ve got much public transport, it’s whether people can access it easily.”
Some support for the proposed expansion was aired by 37-year-old mother Nikoleta Nicolova.
Despite being unsure whether the scheme as a whole is a good idea, she said she backs the principle of encouraging people to upgrade from older, particularly diesel, vehicles.
“Hybrid will be the best option for now, because it’s electric and petrol and saving a lot of petrol”, she said.
Nikoleta added that if local residents did have to use more public transport, then the services are available.
“The transport is really good. Everybody can use it, even me”, she said, adding that she often catches the bus when doing her shopping.