11th March 2023
Camberwell and Peckham is sandwiched between outer London, where hundreds of thousands of people live, and central London, where hundreds of thousands of people work. We are a densely populated area with crowded housing and shopping areas. We are also a young area with many families with young children. 28% of households in Camberwell and Peckham have at least one young child.
Southwark has long suffered with being a through-route for people driving into central London. This clogs up the streets local people need to drive through, cycle on and walk beside, leads to air pollution which causes ill health (particularly in children), makes it more dangerous for cyclists and causes more injuries through traffic accidents.
So our area had much to gain from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s pioneering initiative launched in April 2019 to bring in an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to limit the number of cars, vans and lorries using Southwark as a through-route to central London.
This has been a highly controversial policy. To deter polluting vehicles from driving in the ULEZ, cars and small vans are charged a daily rate of £12.50, with big vans and lorries charged £100. The charges apply to vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards, 24 hours a day for every day including weekends. The only day exempt from the ULEZ is Christmas Day. But it is working. The Mayor is now planning to increase the areas covered by ULEZ charging, due to come into force on August 2023. It is a big expansion of a radical policy but I fully back it.
A recent report carried out by City Hall and academically peer reviewed has shown that the ULEZ has already cut the levels of harmful pollution in central London by almost half. In inner London, the pollution level is now 21% lower than it would have been had the Mayor not introduced the ULEZ. And there are 74,000 fewer polluting vehicles in the ULEZ than there were before its expansion.
This means that all children in Camberwell and Peckham are benefitting from cleaner air thanks to the Mayor’s policy.
The ULEZ is also contributing to the UK’s carbon reduction targets. It is estimated that since the ULEZ was brought into effect, CO2 emissions from vehicles across London have been cut by 800,000 tonnes compared with what the amount would have been without the ULEZ, moving London closer to becoming Net Zero by 2030.
But there is more to do. London as a whole still fails to meet the World Health Organisation’s air quality guidelines. Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely every year due to polluted air and 500,000 Londoners live with asthma and are therefore more vulnerable to the effects of toxic air.
The lesson here is that it’s important to identify what the problem is, consider plans which will make a practical difference, consult on them before introducing them and review their impact. That is exactly what the mayor of London has done with the ULEZ and I support his policy.