Mayor offers extra £5m for London boroughs to help tackle air pollution

Further £5.3m is being added to the mayor’s Air Quality Fund, with councils invited to apply for a share of the money from January, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan (credit GLA)
Sadiq Khan (credit GLA)

Millions of pounds in new funding to enable London boroughs to reduce air pollution in their local areas is to be released by City Hall.

The Greater London Authority has announced that a further £5.3m is being added to the mayor’s Air Quality Fund, with councils invited to apply for a share of the money from January.

Previous rounds of funding, which totalled around £22m, have supported the creation of ‘low emission neighbourhoods’ in Becontree and Walworth, as well as a London-wide ‘idling action campaign’, in which 17,000 students designed banners and used other means to discourage drivers from leaving their engines running.

The fund is also said to have supported the installation and upgrading of over 400 electric vehicle chargers, the creation of over 3,000 square metres of new green spaces and the installation of more than 1,300 cycle parking spaces.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Air pollution in our city is damaging Londoners’ health and I am determined to do all I can to tackle it.

“We’re looking for the next generation of ambitious, local, innovative projects to improve London’s air quality – so I encourage boroughs to get their thinking caps on, consider partnering up, and apply for this financial support by 19th January 2024.”

The mayor is encouraging boroughs to partner together to propose joint projects, building on previous pan-London projects. The new round of projects are expected to start by April 2024.

This is the fourth round of funding announced as part of the scheme and the first since before the pandemic.

According to City Hall, a low-emission neighbourhood in Camden – created under a previous round of funding – delivered an estimated 28% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions, thanks to the installation of 19 electric vehicle charge points, improved pedestrian crossings, three cycle lane schemes, and the introduction of dockless cycle hire bays and cycle hangars.

Responding to the announcement of new funding round, City Hall Conservatives’ environment spokesperson Tony Devenish said: “We support efforts to tackle toxic air pollution but this funding won’t go very far if it is to be split across London’s 32 boroughs.

“The mayor has a £21bn budget. If the mayor is serious about supporting boroughs to tackle toxic air pollution, he should make all of the income from his ill-judged Ulez expansion – £26m in just the first month – available to reduce PM [particulate matter] and NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] air pollution across London.”

City Hall has said that the new round of funding “complements the mayor’s other ambitious air quality achievements, including the London-wide expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) in August 2023”.

The expansion has been controversial, with Conservative mayoral candidate Susan Hall calling it “nothing but a tax grab” and arguing that those on low incomes are “suffering the most” from the daily £12.50 charge for non-compliant vehicles.

The first batch of data on the Ulez expansion last week revealed that the number of non-compliant vehicles – which tend to be older and more polluting – seen driving in London on an average day has decreased by 77,000 compared to June 2023. This is a reduction of 45%.

The mayor has admitted however that it will take a year to get firm data on the impact the expansion has had in reducing air pollution.

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