Sunday, January 23, 2022
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COLUMN: Biggest challenges facing London are flooding and air pollution

Today is election day in Southwark. We have three votes: for the London Mayor, for our own single Southwark and Lambeth Greater London Assembly (GLA) member and for the party proportional London wide GLA members, writes Donnachadh McCarthy…

The two biggest challenges facing London are the threats posed to it by flooding due to the climate crisis and the horrific levels of deaths and life-incapacitating illnesses caused by transport pollution. The estimated deaths over the next four years from pollution in Southwark is 1,200 people.

Recent studies have confirmed that children living or going to school near heavily polluted roads can have their lung development stunted for life. Research has also confirmed the link between asthma and transport pollution. There are over 12,000 registered asthma sufferers in Southwark, including thousands of kids. The NHS estimated that £20 billion a year or 16 per cent of its budget is spent treating the huge numbers of people affected by pollution caused diseases. A recent survey showed that this was parent’s top worry about their children in Southwark and across London.

The creation of a protected cycle-lane network in Southwark and across London would be a major positive contribution to tackling both problems, as it eliminates both carbon emissions and results in cleaner air.  It would also enable our kids to cycle more safely to school, as they do in Holland in huge numbers.

So where do the major parties stand on the issue?

The cycling campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists challenged all of them to commit to raising the current tiny Transport for London safer cycling budget of 1.4% to 10% by 2020.  Tory Zac Goldsmith refused to raise the budget by even a penny.  Labour’s Sadiq Khan said he would raise it to 2.8%. Lib Dem Caroline Pidgeon, who is a former Southwark councillor promised 3%. Only the Green Party’s Sian Berry promised to deliver the full 10% needed by 2020 and she also detailed exactly where the funding would come from. UKIP did not give any answer but their policies historically have been deeply anti-cycling.

But whichever way you vote, I do hope you go out today and exercise your hard fought for right to vote.


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