Keith Bottomley: Delivering good air quality is a challenge


Keith Bottomley, City of London Corporation Policy Vice Chair and Chair Port Health & Environment Committee, explains how the authority is striving to delivery good air quality in the Square Mile. 

Today is National Clean Air Day, when a variety of events take place across the country to highlight the issues surrounding air pollution. 

It started just four years ago, and I’m pleased to say that since then we have seen dramatic improvements in air quality the Square Mile.

This is not a coincidence. 

We have achieved this through an unwavering commitment to change and by taking practical steps to help rid the City of London of toxic air. 

Here in the City, the density of development, busy road network and central location means that delivering good air quality is a challenge. 

But through our ambitious Air Quality Strategy, supported by our Transport Strategy, we’ve been able to deliver real, measurable improvements. 

We have set ourselves an ambitious target because breathing polluted air leads to 64,000 premature deaths in the UK each year. 

We want over 90% of the Square Mile to meet World Health Organisation targets for nitrogen dioxide, a major pollutant, by 2025. 

We are well on our way to achieving this goal and we’re working hard to meet it ahead of time. 

We have delivered this significant improvement through traffic management schemes such as the changes at Bank junction and by piloting the UK’s first 24/7 zero emission street at Beech Street. 

These programmes have been instrumental in reducing the amount of traffic in the Square Mile and encouraging cycling and cleaner vehicles.  

We have also been leading by example by banning new diesel vehicles from our own fleet, where there is a clean market alternative, and requiring low emission vehicles in our major contracts. 

And as readers might know, we will be the first UK governing authority to run a fully electric fleet of refuse collection vehicles. 

NOW READ: Catherine McGuinness: City focus is on solving complex issue of homelessness

Collaboration is an important part of our work because we cannot eliminate air pollution on our own. 

That’s why we are working with the construction industry to ensure clean boilers and generators in the City and using planning laws to make sure that new developments are low emission. 

It is why we have introduced a Private Members Bill into Parliament which would give all London Boroughs, as well as ourselves, tough new powers to tackle air pollution caused by non-traffic sources. 

And it is why we work with City businesses to help them make an impact in their own neighbourhoods. 

We celebrate this work through our Clean City Awards scheme, which recognises firms who are going the extra mile for the environment. 

I am proud of the partnership work we are doing with City residents, businesses and our local authority partners across London.

And I am proud of how we are using cutting-edge smartphone technology with our CityAir app, which now gives over 30,000 Londoners low pollution travel routes, advice and alerts.

But despite these significant achievements, there is more to do.

The City is facing some very tough times right now. This virus is not going to go away quickly so we need to find a way of living with it. Saving lives and protecting the NHS is paramount but this needs to be done in a way that does not cripple our economy. 

We will continue to work hard to build a vibrant City, for all our residents, workers and visitors, with clean air at its very heart.

For the latest headlines from the City of London and beyond, follow City Matters on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.