Monday, 2 April 2012

Pollution in the Bush: 9/10 for dirt

People in Shepherd's Bush have been suffering under a cloud of pollution in recent weeks as the combined impact of stationary traffic, warm weather and a sheen of smog that covered London for much of the last fortnight produced a cloying fug that registered 9/10 for pollution in W12 on March 23rd.

I have the excellent BorisWatch blog to thank for alerting me to the reading, and the pollution monitoring site itself which is hosted by King's College London. Might be worth checking back there throughout the summer, especially if you have asthma.

It comes as Wood Lane has started to resemble a car park for large periods of the day, as it struggles to cope with the hordes of Westfield and some roadworks under the A40 bridge by White City, and shows no sign of easing off any time soon.

So what to do? Living in London you have to accept a degree of dirtiness, it's called the Big Smoke with good reason. But pollution has risen steadily under the last four years of Boris Johnson, who's only response to date has been a bizarre notion of "glueing" the pollution to the roads. An idea that Professor Frank Kelly of King's College called a "waste of public money". London's pollution continues to exceed European Commission standards and is responsible for thousands of deaths every year.

Ken Livingstone's endorsement by the Green Party was in part, they said, because of his own plans to tackle air pollution. But details on what precisely those plans are are hard to find.

Simon Less of the Guardian wrote a balanced view of Boris & Ken's approaches here and reached the conclusion that neither had really gone all out to do something meaningful about it - so you might want to keep an eye on what each of them say between now and polling day. And in the meantime keep checking back to find out just how dirty the air really is around you.

0900 UPDATE - The LibDems on the Greater London Authority have been in touch to pin the blame for the current pollution firmly on a lack of action by Boris ... on black cabs. The taxis, they say, are among the worst overall polluters in the city and an action plan launched with great fanfare by the blonde one to cut their emissions and transfer to clear air vehicles two and a half years ago has never actually been delivered. In fact it hasn't even started.

The 'Cleaner Taxi Fund' was planned to enable drivers to purchase new clean-air vehicles and cut the emissions dramatically. But Mike Tuffrey, of the LibDem Assembly Group said this:
"It's astonishing that nearly two-and-a-half years after first promising action to clean up London's taxi fleet the Mayor has failed on two of this key promises. Poor air quality in our capital accounts for an estimated 4,300 premature deaths each year, with taxis being the single biggest polluting vehicle in central London.

"The Mayor's dither and delay over these issues has been scandalous. It's clear the Mayor is failing in his duty to protect the health of Londoners"
0930 UPDATE - Blimey - the Daily Telegraph have also picked up on the story today and are running a story highlighting how, instead of actually trying to fix the problem as he promised, he has tried to mislead people instead. When the Torygraph is beating up on you like this in an election battle I think it's safe to say you haven't really got a leg to stand on.

Normally when I write stories like this the local media pick up on it later in the day - we shall see...


  1. And with King Street in Hammersmith to be closed from tomorrow (Tuesday) until Friday, I guess that we can expect a lot more traffic diverting up Shepherds Bush Road.

  2. If you look at the "peak" pollution rates for "Late March", there was actually a 10/10 in there. Well done, Boris! We Londoners have finally come top of something!!!!

  3. Seems a bit forced to try pin rising pollution over such a short period on the mayor. How are other comparable cities doing? What can he do about it in the short term? Aren't car manufacturers in a far better position to do something about it?

  4. Air pollution has been terrible in London for many years - it varies from day to day, but overall it is very serious health issue, so yes Boris Johnson is partly to blame for taking so few actions over the last four years while Mayor of London.

    To get a picture of how serious the problem is look at this excellent House of Commons environment audit committee report.