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London Mayor Sadiq Khan vows to clean up air and make capital world's greenest

Published 13/05/2016

Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to restore London to safe and legal levels of air quality
Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to restore London to safe and legal levels of air quality

Sadiq Khan launched the "most ambitious and wide-ranging plans" to clean up London's air, as he vowed to make the capital the greenest in the world.

The newly elected mayor said it has been a "tiring" first week in his new job, and that his "feet have not touched the ground".

He visited Sir John Cass's Foundation Primary School in Aldgate, central London, on Friday, where he made his first major announcement by outlining his plans for a consultation on new policies to tackle the toxic air issue in the capital.

Mr Khan told children who were showing him the air quality monitoring station in the school's playground that he wants to be "the mayor who cleans up the air".

He said: "I've only been in the job for a few days: I'm here to nick your ideas."

After being shown around the City of London school, Mr Khan, a father-of-two, helped children sow seeds and plant flowers in their rooftop garden.

Within his campaign manifesto as the Labour candidate, Mr Khan promised to restore the capital to safe and legal air quality levels.

He told the Press Association: "What is quite clear from the mandate that I received last Thursday is that Londoners want a mayor to clean up in London - that is a fact.

"Almost 10,000 Londoners died last year because of our poor air - that is a fact. There are children in parts of London whose lungs are underdeveloped because of our air.

"We have had eight years of inaction, London now demands action. What I have announced today, 60 years from the Clean Air Act, is the most ambitious and wide-ranging plans to clean up our air."

Mr Khan said the reason he is launching a consultation on the proposals is because he wants to hear from Londoners - especially if they have any plans they want him to consider.

He said he also wants the Government to work with him on policy proposals and that a diesel scrappage scheme could be considered.

Policies up for consideration include extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the North and South Circular roads, implementing extra charges on the most polluting vehicles entering central London and purchasing only hybrid or zero-emission double-decker buses from 2018.

Asked about how much the extra charge could be, he said: "I don't want to penalise hard-working families who may have bought a diesel vehicle.

"We have got to consult with Londoners to make sure that we can clean up our air and make sure London becomes the greenest city in the world, but also that we have Londoners on side."

Mr Khan who drives a petrol VW Golf, also dismissed the suggestion that Boris bikes should be renamed Sadiq Cycles, saying he is "not in favour of vanity projects".

Headteacher Tim Wilson said the school enjoyed having Mr Khan visit, and that they feel very strongly about tackling air pollution and have been working over many years to mitigate against some of the problems associated with it.

"Very few schools are in the position where they have air quality monitoring stations around and within the school," he said.

Using the data collected from the station he said they regularly make decisions based on readings and whether a PE session should be in the gym or outside.

Last year there were three instances where pollution readings significantly exceeded the safe levels at the school.

The consultation on proposals to tackle London's air quality is expected to be launched before the summer.

Campaigners welcomed the mayor's announcement of potential policies that could tackle air pollution in the capital.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: "This is a hugely positive announcement from the new mayor and shows clear ambition to clean up London's dirty air.

"We welcome his plans to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone and to bring it in earlier. This is vital if we are to take the dirtiest vehicles out of London.

"We will have to wait and see if the detail of the mayor's proposals matches his ambition."

Bridget Fox of the Campaign for Better Transport added: "It is good to see the new mayor recognises the need for urgent action on London's air pollution crisis.

"With dirty diesel engines the main cause, early introduction of an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone would be a vital and welcome step. However, cleaning up central London's air while increasing pollution elsewhere in the capital is unacceptable.

"The mayor must also keep his promise to review the damaging plans for the Silvertown tunnel which would simply attract more heavy traffic through some of London's worst affected neighbourhoods."

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