The leader of Havering Council has responded to the expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone into the borough, with a focus on how the zone will negatively impact residents.
The ULEZ is implemented by Transport for London, and aims to contribute to the cleaning up of the air in the capital. Currently encompassing all London areas within the North and South Circular Roads and running every day of the year, except for Christmas Day, the zone means that any vehicles that don’t meet the emission standards, or are not exempt, have to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to drive inside the boundaries.
With the zone expanding from the 29th August 2023, there is concern that people living within the new boundaries will be penalised, despite their ‘unique circumstances. This original concern was raised following a consultation, that saw Havering Council publish a document outlining their issues with the expansion, alongside calls for reconsideration.
The original document, published in August 2022, outlines that the council is “fully committed to improving air quality, tackling climate change” as well as having “a clear commitment to delivering a net zero borough by 2040.” Evidence provided by the council in the document showed that the council has established its own plans to for addressing air quality (Air Quality Management Area) as well as acknowledging that, whilst there are many areas in the borough with good air quality, there are some “hotspots” that are poor.
Part of the council’s planned solution has been to set out a “series of commitments” to the development of a Cycling and Walking Strategy, as well as the establishment and improvement of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Whilst the document from August 2022 established that Havering Council believed that the expansion of the ULEZ would be “nothing more than a regressive flat-rate tax which will impact many hard working families, already struggling to make ends meet due to the cost of living crisis,” there were also concerns raised that Transport for London didn’t provide stakeholders with “a full suite of data” to allow the local authorities involved to take a comprehensive view on the proposals.
Now, the news has broken that the Mayor of London has made the decision to proceed with the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and the leader of Havering Council has responded, with a statement. Councillor Ray Morgon, said:
“We are very disappointed to hear the London Mayor’s decision to go ahead with the expansion of ULEZ into Havering. This will penalise the residents of this borough as outlined in our consultation submission and request the Mayor reconsider implementation into the outer London boroughs due to their unique circumstances. At the very least this should have been delayed due to the huge impact the cost-of living crisis will play on the lives of our residents, with limited alternative transport options.
“We do understand the negative impact of poor air quality on the lives of local residents and others, but pollution levels in inner central London remain much higher than in outer London boroughs. In fact, the GLA recognise that Havering is known to have good air quality, apart from a handful of hotspots.
“Furthermore, Havering is already taking action to improve our air quality further with our Air Quality Action Plan and Climate Change Action Plan. Already our Net CO2 emissions are substantially down.
“We recognise our views have been listened to in regard to the new scrappage scheme. However, with the high cost of living and the large jump in prices in the second hand car market, this will be yet another pressure on hard working families who are already struggling at the worst possible time. “Indeed, even many middle income earning residents within Havering are just as affected by this change and may not be able to afford the change to electric and or other ULEZ compliant vehicles.
“We should also not underestimate the impact this will have on key workers travelling in from outside London, including placing our vulnerable residents at risk due to a diminished workforce. They may be put off from choosing Havering because of the extra costs they’ll have to pay. This also has the potential to damage Havering as an authority attracting inward investment and a destination for businesses to locate to. The knock on effect is the lack of job opportunities that they would bring.
“Furthermore, the public transport infrastructure in the borough is inadequate and not sufficient to encourage people to move away from cars. We need to see greater investment in Havering’s infrastructure before residents are forced to find alternative solutions that do not currently exist.
“The plans to extend the Harold Wood – Harold Hill bus route to Upminster is a welcome start, but falls well short of what is needed in Havering to make the borough better connected and this is particularly true in the south of the borough where businesses have been complaining to us that they can attract workers to their company, but cannot always get them there because of the lack of transport, particularly in light of the doubt over a new Beam Park Station. Indeed, we know that better public transport would go a long way to improve further the air quality in outer London than the ULEZ charge seeks to achieve.
“We will continue to strongly lobby as there should be more thinking about the impact this will have on residents, businesses, visitors as well as public services. We will also continue to push for the improvements we need to lessen the impact on those who will be most disadvantaged.”