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London Mayor Sadiq Khan calls on Stormont to see benefits of city congestion scheme

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (right) with Wrightbus CEO Buta Atwal during a visit to the Wrightbus' Ballymena factory

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (right) with Wrightbus CEO Buta Atwal during a visit to the Wrightbus' Ballymena factory

PA

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (right) with Wrightbus CEO Buta Atwal during a visit to the Wrightbus' Ballymena factory

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has urged politicians here to see the benefits of a city congestion charge scheme.

Mr Khan encouraged Stormont ministers to consider what replicating his Ultra Low-Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scheme could achieve in promoting better air quality in Northern Ireland.

The scheme works by charging drivers of non-green vehicles who enter the ULEZ zone £12.50.

“It’s the boldest clean air scheme in the world,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“ULEZ has a triple challenge. That is, dealing with climate change, helping to clean toxic air and stop congestion. It does this by discouraging people from driving into the city and if they have to, it encourages them to use a clean vehicle.”

The scheme operates 24/7, except for Christmas Day.

Mr Khan added: “I would suggest to all leaders that they come to London and see how we do it. This is a bold scheme that not only tackles climate change but health issues like lung disease, asthma, heart disease, and COPD.”

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He was speaking after a visit to bus manufacturer Wrightbus in Ballymena where Transport for London has paused any further orders pending Government funding.

His offer to see ULEZ in action comes months after research from the Department of Health revealed Health and Social Care costs associated with diseases related to air pollution here. It said costs for 2017 alone were estimated to be £1.5m.

Last November, it warned that air pollution-related illness could cost the Northern Ireland health service up to £190m by 2025. It said that one in 24 deaths in Belfast can now be linked to air pollution.

The Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has finished consulting on a new Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland which forms one part of or a two-stage approach.

It is hoped the strategy will confront the issues around poor air quality in parts of Northern Ireland. DAERA was asked whether it could introduce a similar scheme to ULEZ as part of its new strategy.

It said: "Work is currently underway within DAERA to develop Northern Ireland’s first Clean Air Strategy which will set out ambitions for cleaner air in Northern Ireland.

"The period of public discussion closed in 2021 and all responses have been reviewed. Officials have presented the findings to the minister to seek a view on preferred policy options and measures in advance of engagement with the other government departments.

"Officials will then begin to draft the first Clean Air Strategy for Northern Ireland with this draft Clean Air Strategy subject to an additional public consultation.

"Due to the cross-cutting nature of the policy area, Executive approval will also be sought at that time and it is anticipated that this consultation will launch later in 2022.”

Mr Khan said he is hoping to expand his ULEZ scheme to cover an area “four times the size of Paris” by the end of 2023.

In Northern Ireland, there are currently no fees for driving into cities in high carbon emission vehicles.

In 2019, Belfast was ranked as the third most polluted city within the UK for PM2.5 concentrations (air particles that are harmful for health) by IQAir's 2019 World Air Quality Report.


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