Improving Air Quality in Wandsworth More Effectively and Faster
Measures for the Council to consider to give practical effect to the new Wandsworth Environmental & Sustainability Strategy, 2019-30
A Proposed Approach by Wandsworth Living Streets (WLS)
Filename: Improving Wandsworth Air Quality More Significantly and Faster WLS Final 6 Sept 2019
Date: 6 September 2019
Wandsworth Living Streets
Wandsworth Living Streets (WLS) is the borough group in Wandsworth of Living Streets, the national charity for everyday walking, which was formed 90 years ago as the Pedestrians’ Association. This document has arisen from discussions with our colleagues at Wandsworth Environment Forum (WEF), a body recognised by the Council,which has existed for many years. WEF brings together a wide range of local residents’ organisations in the Borough – the Battersea Society, Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, Furzedown Low Carbon Zone, Mums for Lungs, Putney Society, Transition Town Tooting, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign, Wandsworth Friends of the Earth, Wandsworth Living Streets, the Wandsworth Older Persons Forum, Wandsworth Society, together with interested individuals – all of which have an active interest in improving the environment and combatting global warming. We thank WEF for helpful discussions in shaping our thinking in the preparation of this document.
The Council’s new Wandsworth Environmental and Sustainability Strategy, 2019-30
This welcome policy statement and commitment to take effective measures was adopted by the Council unanimously on 17 July 2019. Triggered by the growing public concern with Climate Change, it covers a full range of environmental issues. The first two issues dealt with are Air Qualityand Sustainable Transport. This WLS Proposal focuses on these two related issues accordingly.
The Air Quality issue
WEF, of which WLS is an active participant, has long dealt with a range of environmental issues, most notably over many years Air Quality. WLS supports some of the measures the Council has already taken, such as helping to persuade TfL to introduce low emission buses on Putney High Street and encouraging Car Clubs in order to reduce the number of cars parked on our streets.
The Council’s legal and public health obligations in relation to Air Quality
All the Boroughs and the City, in Central and Inner London, are actively wrestling with how to improve Air Quality fast. This is a legal obligation that rests on them because of their public health responsibilities. It is an obligation the Supreme Court has ruled all levels of government, from national to local, must now meet in the shortest possible time frame.
More particularly, the Council has to bear in mind that our children’s health, in particular, is at risk from Air Pollution because their young brains, lungs and bodies generally are still developing (10% of all child hospital admissions in Greater London are linked to adverse responses to poor air quality like asthma attacks (Evening Standard, 29 July 2019)). In our borough, 29 of our schools are located in areas where NO2 levels exceed lawful limits and where probably levels of Particulate Matter (PMs) also exceed recommended limits. (List of these schools available on request). The Council also needs to recognise and act on the increased level of risk for groups of outdoor workers and workers employed in shops, schools, offices and other premises adjacent to polluted roads.
The Council’s commitment to involving residents and their community organisations
The new WESS Strategy is forthright in stressing the Council’s commitment in this regard.
- “The Council cannot achieve real change without the support of residents, businesses and partners.”
- “We will ensure that all ages and groups across the borough are included in the deliveryof the strategy.”
- “This will includeworking with key partnerssuch as TfL, public sector bodies and schools to implement change in the borough and support residents to make positive changes.”
- The Council wishes to ‘increase engagement and involvement of residents and community groups’, ‘work in partnership with the people of the borough’, and ‘identify opportunities for increased partnership working with other public sector organisations, business, and‘third sector organisations’.
The 2 main things Wandsworth Council needs to do at this critical moment in time
Wandsworth Living Streets believes Wandsworth Council ought to do two things:
Firstly, set up effective machinery for involving the borough’s residents:
The WESS Strategy, 2019-30 sets up the necessary Officer machinery – A Chief Officer Climate Change Steering Group and a Climate Change Action Group to deal with ‘more operational issues’. They will produce and publish an annual Environmental Sustainability Report and an annually updated Action Plan.
But the Strategy makes no mention of the machinery needed to involve residents. This needs to be done as a matter of urgency. The relevant Cabinet Member(s) needs to discuss and agree with Wandsworth Environment Forum and other relevant community organisations the details of such machinery. In our view, such a body must meet regularly, be properly informed by Officers of actions being taken sector by sector, and provide an opportunity for residents and their organisations to suggest changes to, or additional measures for giving effect to Climate Change, Environment, and Sustainability policies and measures that will be considered seriously.
Secondly, we suggest the following approach to developing the detailed policies and implementation measures the Strategy requires:
We focus on the Council’s priorities of Air Qualityand Sustainable Transportin the rest of this paper. Transforming our transport system in ways to make travel truly sustainable in London is central to improving Air Quality.
- Mandate its relevant Senior Officers to review the Council’s Air Quality Action Planas well as its current projects and intended actions with a view to proposing to the Council a raft of much more effective interventions to improve Air Quality.
- Officers should review the measures being taken by other London Boroughs and the City to see which ones Wandsworth Council might adopt or trial.
- Officers should focus on the Transport sector in the first instance,since it generates over half of all adverse impacts on Air Quality in our Borough, as well as being the main sector currently responsible for greenhouse gas emissions resulting in the Climate Emergency, with over-reliance on private motor vehicles deterring active travel (zero emission) modes of transport. In particular, the Council needs to take urgent measures focussing on two objectives:
- To reduce the number of ‘dirty’ vehicleson the roads in our borough– ie. vehicles whose emissions exceed the required standards. (There are 83,018 vehicles registered in the borough as of 2015-16).
- To reduce the number of short trips made in private cars (no matter what the method of propulsion).This will reduce both NO2 emissions from diesel vehicles, and also Particulate Matter (PM) pollution. PMs are particularly present in diesel exhaust fumes, but are also created by wear and tear from brake linings, tyres, and road surfaces, caused by all motor vehicles, including electric vehicles.
Wandsworth Living Streets would be happy to provide Council Officers with whatever sources of information we already have in order to facilitate this process. As a first step, we provide here a list of measures – many of them are measures that other London Boroughs are already deploying in order to achieve these objectives in the interests of improving Air Quality fast and moving towards a more Sustainable Transport system.
Preparedby Wandsworth Living Streets for the Wandsworth Environment Forum meeting held on 6 August 2019.
Date: 5 August 2019, revised 27 August, finalised 6 September 2019
Measures Wandsworth Council might adopt, many of which other boroughs in London are already resorting to in order to persuade residents to have cleaner vehicles and make fewer trips by car:
CAR PARKING CHARGES:
- Reward households which own no car (i.e. are car-free)by offering them FREE One-Day visitor parking permits, initially on the same basis as car-owning households in CPZs and converging towards 5 per household over a period of five years. This would create a level playing field for all households to facilitate workmen or personal visitors (or themselves e.g. when hiring a vehicle) coming by van or car to park outside their homes. This offer would end the current discrimination, and be a way of rewarding the growing number of Wandsworth households which do not own their own car.
Longer term the number of free parking permits should be annually reviewed with a view to a gradual reduction in number.
- Resident Parking Permit Surcharge for Diesels:Encourage a shift from diesel vehicles by introducing a Resident Parking Permit surchargefor diesel vehicles: Diesels are more polluting in health terms (NO2emissions and Particulate Matter pollution) than petrol vehicles. Petrol Vehicles are more damaging (via CO2emissions) in Climate Change terms than diesel vehicles. Electric vehicles, while better than either diesel and petrol in NO2and CO2terms, continue to produce Particulate Matter emissions. Eight London boroughs are prioritising the health considerations by already imposing a diesel surcharge, with two more considering it. (Merton’s diesel surcharge is currently £150). A Resident Parking Permit surcharge on diesels will be a clear nudge to a very significant proportion of car owners in the borough to move to cleaner vehicles.
The Council should also alert diesel vehicle owners that it is intending to introduce, year by year, significant increases above the rate of inflation in Resident Parking Permit charges for diesel vehicles.
- Extend CPZ coverage –Resident Parking Permit Charges should be paid by all residents parking motor vehicles on the carriageway or on Council estates: About half of all registered vehicles in Wandsworth are parked on the carriageway near people’s homes (38,295 Residents Parking Permits are currently issued by the Council – Source: FoI inquiry March 2019). But there are still parts of our borough (areas without CPZs) where residents and other car users can clog up roads by parking in them at no cost.
Another category which needs to be examined is that of car owners who park on Council estates. The allocation of an estate’s land in response to demand for car parking has an opportunity cost in that it removes potential green space, room for children’s play equipment, community growing space including orchards, visitor and residential cycle parking etc. –things that would collectively benefit an estate’s residents.
In future, all car owners parking on the carriageway or on land on Council estates ought to pay a Parking Charge. This is in the interests of fairness to Wandsworth residents generally, as well as reducing demand for use of scarce public land in this way, thus contributing to the borough’s sustainability.
Such a charge would also increase the Council’s revenue from parking charges so that it can afford to introduce changes to our roads and public realm infrastructure in order to facilitate more people choosing to walk or cycle their short trips – I.e. the transition to Sustainable Transport.
- Resident Car Parking Charges across all categories should in future rise at a rate significantly above annual Inflation:This ‘nudge’ measure would encourage some residents not to own their own vehicles, but instead join Car Club schemes, walk and cycle short trips more, and use public transport. Fewer motor vehicles would be parked on our local roads. And fewer trips would be made using private motor vehicles. This would be another significant contribution to improving Air Quality.
- Kerbside Parking Charges in CPZs:Differentials in the cost of Resident Parking Permits should also apply to all vehicles parked in CPZ areas, and charged by time.These charges would, as now, apply whether or not the vehicle owner is a Wandsworth resident. In Westminster recently, the Council Leader Nickie Aiken announced extending its innovativeD-Charge (a surcharge of £2.45 an hour on pre-2015 diesel vehicles parking in certain areas of Westminster)in phases across the whole borough.In its first 9 months in the areas to which it currently applies, this surcharge has already raised £1M for the Council. The surcharge has also reduced the number of polluting vehicles driven through Westminster by 14%. The money raised will be spent on Westminster’s Air Quality improvement plans around schools (‘Air Quality is the No. 1 concern of our residents’, Evening Standard25 May 2018).
- 2ndand 3rdcars owned by Wandsworth residents and parked on the highway– Increase Resident Parking Permit charges for these significantly:They are already higher in Wandsworth; the Council should make them much higher.
BANS ON DELIVERIES BY VANS & LORRIES
Extend the ban on deliveries, 7am to 7pm, Mondays through Saturdays, to all 5 town centres and certain other major shopping streets
The Council has already introduced this ban on Putney High Street, and one or two other locations. It should be extended toall 5 Town Centres and also selected major ‘secondary’ shopping streets– for example, Battersea Park Road, and Garratt Lane around Earlsfield Station.
This measure will reduce congestion and help improve Air Qualityfor commuterswalking to and from bus stops and railway stations in the mornings and evenings; and shoppers on the pavement during the day.
APPLY ULEZ (Ultra-Low Emission Zone) RULES & CHARGES to all 5 Town Centres and selected other shopping streets in our borough
ULEZ regulations from October 2021 will make owners of all vehicles (including cars) that do not meet certain emission standards pay a daily charge if driven on roads lying within the South and North Circular Roads. Wandsworth Council has rightly criticised this Mayoral intention because it excludes areas of the borough (notably the A24 through Balham and Tooting) suffering from high pollution but lying outside the extended ULEZ area. The Council should install its own cameras on all such streets and levy a daily charge on all non-compliant vehicles. The scheme, if charges are set at appropriate levels, would be entirely self-financing, and possibly generating some surplus revenue to facilitate the transition to Sustainable Transport.
In addition to the 5 Town Centres, selected additional shopping streets would be included (see examples in (2) above).
This measure would not only reduce the volume of private motor traffic and improve Air Quality; it would also add to the attractiveness of these shopping streets and help increase the turnover of local businesses.
Hackney Council is one example of a borough trialling such camera-enforced measures on some streets.
SCHOOL STREETS – Restrict parents taking children to and from school by car
The Strategic Planning & Transport Overview & Scrutiny Committee, meeting 11 June 2019, approved an Officers paper on trialling School Streets at 5 schools in Wandsworth. As soon as possible thereafter, similar measures should be introduced at ALL 29 schools in the borough where NO2emissions exceed lawful limits. (List available on request).
In other boroughs such as Croydon and Hackney that have tried this measure, they have significantly reduced the number of parents delivering children by car. Newham Council has decided (July 2019) to set up Air Quality monitoring equipment at every one of its 96 schools in order to decide which ones require School Street measures to be taken.
The ‘school run’ is a significant contributor to morning rush-hour congestion (comprising some 25% of all motor vehicles on the road in London at that time). It materially worsens Air Quality. It also raises road safety concerns for those children who may be walking or cycling to school. This in turn deters parents from encouraging their children to travel on foot or by cycling.
Where these schools are on or near TLRN roads managed by Transport for London, the Council should lobby and pressurise TfL to take appropriate action in the same vigorous and high profile manner it did in the case of Putney High Street.
NEW ON-STREET INFRASTRUCTURE TO FACILITATE MUCH MORE WALKING AND CYCLING:
Every day, Londoners make 3½ million journeys by motorised modes (cars, taxis, buses and coaches) that could be walked, at least in part. In Wandsworth, there are 80,000 daily trips that could be walked instead, and another 55,000 that are walkable for at least part of the way (of a longer trip). (Source: TfL, Analysis of Walking Potential, March 2017). The parallel TfL analysis for cycling shows that only 11% of Wandsworth residents’ readily cycleable journeys are in fact currently cycled; cycling in the borough is stagnating at 4% of all journeys. Getting people in Wandsworth to walk, and cycle, short trips far more will benefit their health; ease congestion on the roads, and improve air quality. But it will not happen by simply asking or encouraging people to walk or cycle! The Council needs to spend some of its increased surplus revenue from higher Parking Charges to finance additional walking and cycling infrastructure. It could also use CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) funds that it has already received, for this purpose. Measures could include:
- Planning high quality walking routesto key rail and tube stations, shopping streets, NHS centres, and desirable locations;
- Upgraded cycling infrastructure and cycle parking, including the widespread introduction of contra-flow schemes on one-way streets to improve permeability;
- Re-shaping our streets to shift the balance away from motor vehicles and towards walking and cycling(greening – including the introduction of parklets, high quality paving; improved street crossings etc);
- The creation of low traffic neighbourhoodsacross the borough to transform the look and feel of our streets, as seen in Waltham Forest, with health and air quality benefits being realised at scale and at pace.
WLS will be pleased to provide detailed policy proposals in this regard – Better Streets for Wandsworth: Measures the Council could take to transform our streets for all residents when out and about in foot.