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As Ealing Council launch new survey on how to tackle pollution across the borough, local groups want to see action being taken to “to protect the vulnerable”

Ealing Council has launched a survey as part of its Air Quality Action Plan in which it is inviting residents and workers in Ealing to have a say on how the council should tackle pollution across the borough.

Some local groups, while welcoming the plan and survey, have also questioned why it has taken six years for the council to consider their concerns

Councillor Deirdre Costigan, the council’s cabinet member for climate action said: “Tragically, 165 people in Ealing died prematurely last year due to air pollution, which means cutting harmful emissions and tackling dirty air is one of the council’s very highest priorities. We have been taking the strongest possible action through our Air Quality Action Plan, which is now well underway – but we cannot do it alone, and the action we take as a council has to work for residents.”

The survey is open until 30 January 2022.

Councillor Costigan added: “We consulted you earlier this year and we used what you said to develop our new Air Quality Strategy. Now we’re putting the strategy out for one last check by you, to make sure our plans truly work for local people. “Your voice can make a difference in shaping our work to avoid deaths from harmful emissions in the future.”

Ealing Liberal Democrat Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Gary Malcolm told EALING.NEWS:  “Liberal Democrats want to see more action on improving our air quality. We have supported schemes like the School streets, bike hangers and want to see the Electric Vehicle charging points rolled out much quicker.”

Councillor Malcolm added: “We believe that the Council should adopt a Pedestrian First approach when designing and redesigning high streets so that they are made more safe and friendly for those walking. Many of the schemes that Council has done have helped cyclists without helping pedestrians. Liberal Democrats would ensure that our high streets allow enough seating for people who need to rest especially with the ageing society.

“We want to see our bus network improve so people who sometimes travel by car can use public transport. One thing that the Labour-run Ealing Council has done with LTNs and other road closure schemes is caused problems for those who need to use their cars or vans, mainly for work purposes like carers or tradespeople. We should encourage people to move over not force people.”

Ealing Green Party chair Neil Reynolds told EALING.NEWS: “As ever with Ealing Council a consultation gives the appearance of activity, but Ealing’s air remain unsafe for the majority of residents. This is especially true for those in Southall who have had to endure inaction and delay from the council regarding the pollution at the gasworks redevelopment. More generally the major cause of pollution is motor vehicle traffic. The solution to that is to reduce the number of journeys made by private car in particular. The ULEZ expansion that Ealing Greens support, will help, but other parties must show courage and support other measures to improve air quality for all.”

Local groups have welcomed the plan and survey but want to see action being taken “to protect the vulnerable”.

Angela Fonso, campaign coordinator for Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) said: “It’s obviously good news that Ealing Council is finally taking air quality seriously and listening to CASH and residents in Southall, who have been complaining about air pollution and reporting odour nuisance since Berkeley Group started digging up the contaminated old gasworks site in the open air in November 2016.”

Ms Fonso added: “People in Southall have repeatedly reported that air pollution and dust from Southall Gasworks, FM Conway’s asphalt plant on the parkway to the west of the site, and two wood burning incinerators to the south have caused or exacerbated health problems such as eye, nose and throat irritation, heart and lung conditions, diabetes, adverse pregnancy outcomes and even death. We have also pointed out that it is mostly older people, women and children, people with existing health conditions, poorer people, and people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who suffer the most and bear the highest burden of risk, so it is good to see that this is acknowledged in the draft Air Quality Strategy, even if it is six years too late.”

Ms Fonso further commented on the plan: “It’s also good to see recognition of the World Health Organisation’s guidance on lower “acceptable” limits for emissions, but setting a target of 2030 to meet these isn’t going to help those of us who have been forced to breathe Berkeley’s “unacceptable” over-the-limit air for fifteen years until then.

“It’s also good that the draft Air Quality Strategy acknowledges the totally avoidable, systematic and unfair mental and physical health inequalities faced by Southall people, while Ealing Council stood by and did nothing to help. Providing 2,500 free bicycles, and improved public transport is welcome, but isn’t going to stop the source of the toxic air.”

Ms Fonso added: “While the draft Air Quality Strategy focuses almost entirely on emissions caused by traffic, it does highlight the installation of “independent” air quality monitors on site at the Gasworks development as an example of what Ealing Council is doing to combat and reduce air pollution. However, none of the near real-time monitors record any of the pollutants complained about by residents, and the Council has so far refused to publish air quality data related to emissions of volatile organic compounds from the contaminated land.

“The draft Strategy states that this monitoring was put in place in response to residents’ complaints, but only after the problematic open-air remediation of the contaminated soil was completed. The draft Strategy recognises that poorer BAME people are more at risk, so the question remains why didn’t Ealing Council put these measures in place when earthworks started in 2016, and why didn’t they do more to protect the vulnerable Southall population?

“if Ealing Council is serious about improving public transport and reducing traffic congestion as a means of improving air quality then it must stick to it’s promise to widen the South Road bridge, which was a condition of going ahead with the Gasworks redevelopment.”

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