Interviews

Wood Green gym owner wants to rip out Ulez and LTNs if he becomes London mayor

North London fitness fanatic Andreas Michli speaks to Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter, about why he’s standing for mayor in May

Andreas Michli (credit Edward Crawford)
Andreas Michli (credit Edward Crawford)

An independent London mayoral candidate has pledged to abolish low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), the Congestion Charge and the entire Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) if he wins the election in May.

Andreas Michli, who owns Zone Gym in Wood Green, said that London’s air is “the cleanest it has ever been” but claims Ulez has not been a contributing factor in that.

Asked what has caused improvements in London’s air quality in recent years, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “I’m not an expert in that, but this is what the stats and data are telling us […the Ulez] has had such a minimal effect, it can’t even be correlated [to improved air quality].”

Pressed on whether he was able to account for London’s reduced air pollution, he insisted: “Well it’s certainly not Ulez.”

He later suggested that advances in technology may have played some role.

A recent analysis using Transport for London (TfL) data found that the Ulez has averted more air pollution than is produced by the capital’s airports or its river and rail transport combined. The research found that Ulez and the pre-existing low emission zone for HGVs reduced road traffic particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions by 180 tonnes across London over three years, while nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from road traffic fell by an estimated 13,500 tonnes in the same period.

Michli said he would take a consultative approach to governing the capital, and that if a local community wanted to keep their LTN, he would allow them to do so. Most LTNs are located on roads controlled by borough councils, rather than TfL, however.

He added: “You cannot impose policies on people, and that is what has been done with Ulez. It’s been imposed, without proper consultation.”

The independent candidate has said he was inspired to run for mayor after being “radicalised by lockdown”. He was fined for attempting to keep his Wood Green gym open during lockdown, but this was overturned in court.

Michli told the LDRS: “It was basically the way the government acted in a tyrannical fashion, telling people what they can and can’t do, imposing legislation on us. And that’s why I’m running for mayor.”

The fitness fanatic has put health at the centre of his campaign, pledging to provide free gym memberships for Londoners which would be paid for by City Hall.

“We’re trying to take the approach of empowering Londoners to take control of their own health,” he said, adding that he would also provide the capital’s residents with personalised nutrition plans.

Regarding policing, Michli has said he wants to see a “return to early 20th Century-style uniforms” for the Met.

“An outsider, someone from another country, that’s how they probably picture our police force […] It’s a tradition we need to uphold,” he said.

Michli added that he is concerned about a lack of professionalism in the Met, calling the force “a laughing stock”.

He has pledged to impose “significantly higher physical standards for entry”, which would be “closer to military standards”. He has also said constables should also possess “a level of legal knowledge comparable to a solicitor”.

Met Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has warned that the force is struggling to recruit enough officers, but Michli insisted that imposing higher entry standards would in fact ease rather than worsen the problem.

He said: “For me, they’re a bunch of jumped up doormen with badges, running around. There’s no professionalism. If we raise the standard, people will aspire to have that job.”

Michli has promised to abolish net zero climate targets. He said: “Net zero targets aren’t benefitting Londoners in any way, as far as I can see.

“They’re costing businesses, they’re costing people, they’re making things more difficult, they’re making the traffic worse in a lot of places – it’s a negative road we’re going down here.”

Asked whether he was worried about global warming, he said: “I mean, me as a mayoral candidate, I could give you my opinions on global warming, but I feel it’s outside of the sort of purview of what the mayor of London is capable of controlling.”

With the exception of Ken Livingstone, who won the first contest in 2000 before rejoining Labour later on, no independent candidate for London mayor has ever achieved more than 4% of the vote.

Michli said Londoners should vote for him because no other candidate “has the will and passion to actually achieve what they’re saying”.

He added: “I’m not a politician, I’m a regular Londoner. I was born and bred here, I grew up here. I’m raising my family here. I am one of you. I will do my very utmost best to make London strong.”

Other independent mayoral candidates who have declared so far include CEO and university chancellor Natalie Campbell, policy campaigner Rayhan Haque and investment banker Tarun Ghulati.

Sadiq Khan is fighting for an historic third term as Labour’s candidate, up against the Conservatives’ Susan Hall, the Greens’ Zoë Garbett, the Liberal Democrats’ Rob Blackie and Reform UK’s Howard Cox.

Former Labour MP George Galloway – who later led the Respect Party and is now leader of the Workers’ Party of Britain – has also said he will stand.

The election will take place on 2nd May, along with elections for the London Assembly.