Havering, ULEZ and Public Health

Government intervention in urban Public Health began in 1835 when councils were permitted to build pavements and charge them to ratepayers. 120 years later The Clean Air Act was passed by a Conservative government to stop thousands of preventable deaths from air pollution. The Great Smog, 1952, slaughtered Londoners adding to the normal annual toll.

The 1956 Act banned traditional open coal fires and turbocharged the switch to central heating.

 

Domestic coal delivery was a very hard and dirty job

The Clean Air Act was transformative, with housing changed forever. There were significant costs during the transition period. But! Tens of thousands of lives were saved and Londoners lived longer, happier, healthier lives.

ULEZ stands in this tradition. “The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health. It will clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year.”2

The Great Smog of 1952 was a physical reality. Parts of London came to a halt with choking polluted air and very poor visibility.

 

The Great Smog of London killed thousands of Londoners

21st century air pollution is invisible, though deaths are unpleasantly real. Three people a week die in Havering from air pollution. Deaths are the gruesome tip of a toxic iceberg. Thousands of people suffer respiratory problems which ruin their everyday lives.

During the transition to EV vehicles, ULEZ is a small and important step. It stands in a long Public Health tradition stretching back to 1835.

Notes

1 Summer 2022. ULEZ is London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone. For the historical contest see Highway Act 1835 – Wikipedia and Clean Air Act 1956 – Wikipedia

2 The Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone for London | London City Hall There are about 9,500 air pollution deaths each year Twice as many deaths caused by air pollution in London – HealthyAir

Romford Conservatives, Sadiq Khan and Clean Air

Romford Conservatives are unhinged. They’re opposing Sadiq Khan’s Clean Air policy because it’s a Labour policy.1 This is political immaturity at its worst. Air pollution causes debilitating illnesses like asthma. Romford Conservatives are defending clapped out 17 year-old bangers to make a political point. And their ‘political’ point is:

We Really Don’t Like Labour And Especially Not Sadiq Khan.

For a once great party to be reduced to petty childish opposition to a Public Health programme is shocking. Winston Churchill (see Addendum) would have been astonished. Clapped out bangers are being charged for the health risk they pose.

Every London Mayor, including Boris Johnson, uses the pricing mechanism to achieve policy objectives such as controlling car parking.2 It’s very effective. Surging demand for electric vehicles demonstrates this. They’re subsidised directly,3 ULEZ is the other side of the coin.

Air pollution is invisible but real.4 Air pollution causes long-term illnesses in young children and the elderly. Havering Council monitors air pollution throughout the borough, especially near schools.5 Romford Conservatives are opposing their own policies by opposing ULEZ. Their immature opposition is demeaning.

Addendum: Clean Air Act, 1956

In 1953 Winston Churchill’s government initiated the Clean Air Act.6 This act was hugely disruptive, and expensive, but absolutely necessary. The ULEZ programme is a 2022 version of Churchill’s Clean Air Act.  It’s harder to sell because air pollution is invisible unlike the smogs of the 1950s. They share one thing: without these policies Havering’s children will suffer unnecessary ill-health.

Notes

1 STOP ULEZ | Romford (romfordconservatives.com) ULEZ = Ultra Low Emission zone

2 Toll roads could be introduced to UK roads as electric car ownership surges (msn.com)

3 There is a direct cash payment and nil Road Tax

4 Toxic air in London caused 1,700 asthma hospitalisations in just three years, study finds | The Independent

5 Air Quality in Havering: Environment Overview and Scrutiny sub-committee 20th February 2019* – Politics in Havering

6 The Clean Air Act | HouseFuel