Croydon traffic Pic: Mike Day
The high number of premature deaths in some London boroughs – with Croydon the third worst – may be linked to rising levels of air pollution, the Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned.
Croydon, with 196 premature deaths is behind Barnet in north London with 201 while Bromley with 204 deaths, borders Croydon.
In a speech at the London Assembly, on the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover all of the capital Khan said: “It can’t be a coincidence that the top 10 boroughs with the largest number of deaths are those parts of London that haven’t currently got ULEZ. It can’t be a coincidence that the improvements in air quality you’re seeing in central London and inner London is far greater than any improvements in outer London.”
He said: “We are talking about an invisible killer” and added: “Those who travel in, if they want to bring poison, will have to pay for that.”
The Assembly voted in favour of the mayor having the option to expand the ULEZ at a future date.
Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, from Lewisham, was the first person in the world to have air pollution listed as a cause of death on her death certificate. She was just 9 years old when she died of an asthma attack.
Her mother Rosamund, who advocates for clean air worldwide, told Eastlondonlines: “When we had the inquest we got the experts in Ella’s case to give some recommendations, and all of them agreed ULEZ expansion was something that needed to be done to clean up the air in London.”
She said that she has “advised the mayor, who was a party to the inquest, he is aware of what the experts have said.”
Croydon Climate Action told Eastlondonlines: “We want the decision makers in Croydon to act urgently to reduce pollution levels here because of the huge impact on our children’s health. Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah died at just 9 years old…she also lived in South East London, and if nothing changes, we will only see more and more people affected by this.”
They added that they would support the expansion of the ULEZ, but “as long as there are sufficient exemptions for those who need to drive and a scrappage scheme for their old cars.” They also said that they would go further to support the introduction of smart road user driving.
Croydon’s verdict on ULEZ expansion
The discussion of further road-user charging schemes, which would encompass all of London, comes amid the cost of living crisis. Road-users have to pay £12.50 to drive within the current ULEZ if their cars don’t meet the emission standards. Rachel Emery, from Croydon, told ELL that she doesn’t think the ULEZ should be expanded. She said: “I think there’s a lot of people who simply won’t be able to afford to do it. I understand why they’re doing it, but I just think for some people it’s going to be quite hard.” However, she also added that she could see both sides and was shocked at the high levels of premature deaths.
Another Croydon resident, Jackie Maguire, was concerned about her car meeting the emission standards. She said: “I’ve got a pure-drive diesel car. It was supposed to be a clean car, and it’s not old, and now I’ve got to get rid of it, so financially it’s going to hit me.” Maguire viewed the high premature death figures for Croydon as worrying, saying that she suffers from asthma. She agreed with sorting out emissions. However, she was aware of how the cost could hit some people hard. She said she is “in a little bit better position” to replace her car, “but a lot of people aren’t.”
When the potential ULEZ expansion was proposed earlier this year, Croydon Mayor Jason Perry sent a letter to the Mayor of London saying he was “deeply concerned” by the scheme. He said in the letter, sent in June 2022: “The ULEZ expansion would be a hammer blow to businesses and residents in my borough of Croydon with many families hit with a £12.50 a day charge just to leave their driveway.”
“I agree that we must take steps to improve London’s air quality, however that should not come at the cost of hitting families and businesses already struggling to make ends meet. While most vehicles may meet the ULEZ standards, those with cars which fall short will be left unable to get around without paying the extortionate charge.”