London businesses and local authorities meet to tackle air quality crisis

17th March 2020 / Posted by Joshua West

Inner and outer London councils, businesses improvement districts (BIDs), and healthcare industry specialists have come together to share knowledge and solutions to London’s air quality crisis – currently responsible for thousands of premature deaths each year in the capital.

With air quality improvement projects already taking place and increasing pressure for both public and private sectors to take more action, the ‘Clean Air Future’ event on 27th February 2020, hosted by London Councils, London Environment Directors Network (LEDNet), the Association of Directors of Public Health London (ADPH London), and Cross River Partnership at Westminster City Hall, was a welcome opportunity to share successful initiatives and how targets should be translating into actions in some of London’s most polluted areas.

LEDNet and ADPH London were clear that more has to be done sooner and for councils and businesses to utilise their connections to consolidate resources, knowledge, and best practise in order to provide cleaner air for all. Air Quality Leads for ADPH London and LEDNet said:

“We need a strong, shared narrative and campaign on air quality and public health impacts across London that will change the public’s perception around their own contribution to cleaning our air – including the overall benefits of physical activity to most people.

Across the country, there are some excellent examples of work being led by local councils to invest in sustainable transport, renewable energy and redesigning streets to encourage more people to walk and cycle.

But councils could do more if they had the right powers and funding.  At the heart of our position is a call for the Government to take the lead globally by allocating at least 2.5% of UK annual GDP to properly fund the response to climate change and improve the air we breathe, with a significant increase in resources available to councils to tackle the issue.”

The London Borough of Camden shared their approach to parking policies, pedestrian priority infrastructure and car reduction measures, highlighting consistent reviews of permits and policy as keys to their success. As one of the 24 London boroughs to declare a Climate Emergency, Camden is pushing ahead with ambitious carbon as well as air pollution reduction plans, ensuring it plays it’s part in helping the city, and the UK, in reaching its climate targets.

Cadogan Estate, which spans 93 acres of business and residential property in the heart of London, presented the current challenges and opportunities being faced by the local business community. Their strong actions on air pollution are backed by over 60% of respondents to a recent community stakeholder survey, indicating ‘air quality improvements’ and ‘reduction in traffic congestion’ as their number one priority in the area.

Simon Pitkeathley – CEO, Camden Town Unlimited and Euston Town BID, and Chair for the event, echoed the wider challenges and how business working together can place greater action on air pollution at the top of their agenda:

“Hearing everyone talk so practically about the changes being made towards a Clean Air Future has been amazing. Today has been about moving on from visualisation to implementing actual solutions. We will continue working with our businesses to achieve clean air targets across Camden, Euston and beyond.”

Cross River Partnership showcased their innovative air quality improvement projects, most notably Healthy Streets Everyday – a 3-year programme bringing together London boroughs, BIDs, landowners, academic institutions, and charities to deliver pedestrian-friendly traffic regulations, streetscape improvements and car-free events across the city.

Key outcomes from the event have been condensed into 25 Top Tips for Action on Air Quality for businesses and local authorities.