Elizabeth Fonseca explained that the council was required to adopt a new Air Quality Action Plan for 2018-23. There was significant evidence that poor air quality was having a negative impact on residents of Hammersmith and Fulham; 25% of early deaths in the borough had been attributed to the effects of poor air quality. It was therefore important that the council developed an Air Quality Action Plan which would help it to tackle the issue. The Greater London Authority (GLA) had developed a framework for Councils across London to use when developing their action plans. It was hoped that having a more coordinated approach across London would help to increase the impact of each borough’s actions.
Maps showing the concentration of nitrogen dioxide pollution and particulate matter in the borough were shown, with main roads clearly standing out as the principal areas of concentration. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that the majority of nitrogen dioxide pollution came from diesel vehicles, whereas particulate matter was caused largely by particles from tyre, brake and clutch wear and particles being resuspended in the air, although there were also many other sources. Unfortunately, there was little that the council could realistically do to significantly reduce the impact of pollution from roads, national or regional action would need to be taken as most of the traffic in Hammersmith and Fulham was passing through rather than being caused by residents.
Hammersmith and Fulham’s draft action plan proposed actions in a wide range of areas. Air pollution would continue to be monitored closely, the council having doubled its nitrogen dioxide monitoring network in 2016. The council’s own vehicle fleet and the larger fleets of its contractors would be upgraded to less polluting vehicles. Council buildings would also be fitted with low-emission boilers as they needed replacement. Greening measures would also continue to be introduced on the highway, with some schemes to look at reducing the canyon effect which concentrated pollution between tall buildings on main roads. Planning controls would be used to ensure that large developments did not have a negative impact on air quality. The council would also try to persuade people make less polluting choices, for example, through discounted parking permits for low emission vehicles, the promotion of active travel and anti-idling campaigns.
A resident asked why planning powers were not used to prevent tall buildings from being built near to polluted roads, as it was known that this would cause a canyon effect. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that each application for development was assessed individually and that developers could potentially overcome issues of the canyon effect through other design measures. Councillor Harcourt said that Hammersmith and Fulham used the limited planning powers available to it to good effect, but said that it was difficult to prevent developments on air quality grounds.
A resident asked what the impact of the 20mph speed limit was on air quality. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that driving at 20mph would typically reduce a vehicle’s emissions as traffic flow should be smoother and a consequent reduction in acceleration and braking which caused significant amounts of pollution. A resident noted that traffic lights often stopped drivers and asked whether these ought not to be retimed to favour cars to prevent pollution from idling vehicles and stated that vehicles are forced to idle because shutting them off and turning them on again is even worse for the environment. Elizabeth Fonseca said that this is not the case with modern cars, some of which are fitted with Start/Stop technology.. A resident noted that the needs of pedestrians and other road users also needed to be considered. The Chair asked whether officers working on air quality cooperated with staff responsible for transport and highways. Elizabeth Fonseca confirmed that they did work closely together.
A resident asked whether the council planned to take enforcement action against those idling on the borough’s roads. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that the most effective way to combat idling was to raise awareness through campaigns. It was intended that enforcement powers would be used, but it was very difficult to take formal action against a driver as legislation required that a warning be issued before a fine could be given, and almost all drivers would heed the warning and turn off their engine. A resident asked that anti-idling leaflets be distributed to members of the public so that they could help to educate idling drivers, whilst another resident asked that more work be done with large venues to prevent taxis, coaches and lorries from idling there. Elizabeth Fonseca said that the council’s anti-idling campaign already distributed leaflets and worked with venues; she agreed to ensure that more was done.
A resident of Ashcroft Square said that he would favour pedestrianisation on King Street to reduce pollution; he also complained about noise pollution caused by the council’s street cleaning vehicles. Councillor Harcourt said that he hoped that electric street cleaning machines would be introduced in the next few years and said that this should mean that they were both quieter and less polluting than the current sweepers.
A resident asked if pollution from aircraft was covered by the action plan. Elizabeth Fonseca said that the main impact of aviation on the borough was people travelling to and from Heathrow airport in vehicles mostly on main roads through the borough..
A resident asked what could be done to reduce pollution from taxis. Councillor Harcourt explained that from 2018 Transport for London (TfL) would require that all new taxis were capable of running with zero emissions at the tailpipe; this would mean that new taxis would either be electric or be hybrids and so nitrogen oxide pollution from taxis would drop significantly. There were also to be two low emission bus corridors running into the borough along the A4020 and the A315. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that the council also lobbied TfL to try to persuade them to do more.
A resident asked whether the queuing of buses at Hammersmith Bridge was permanent. Councillor Harcourt explained that the current system would only operate until major repairs had been completed. These were likely to start in the summer of 2018 and were expected to last around 12 months; the council would push TfL to try to ensure that the closure period was kept to a minimum. Councillor Harcourt also explained that TfL were being asked to stagger departures from Hammersmith Bus Station to prevent queuing at the bridge.
A resident asked whether a diesel scrappage scheme would be developed. Elizabeth Fonseca explained that such a scheme would need to be set up by the government; so far they had been unwilling to commit to this action in their recent revised strategy to improve air quality which focussed other than to ask councils to do so.