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Electric car pledges will not solve Camden’s ‘shocking’ air quality, warn Greens

Council election candidates asked to put forward ideas of how to clean borough's air

17 April, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Helena Paul for the Greens

THE Greens have warned that arguing about which party intends to install the most electric car charging points will not solve Camden’s air quality crisis.

Labour and the Conservatives are locked in an arms race of pledges over the charging points, with the ruling party promising to double the number in the borough and the Tories offering 2,000 charge new spots.

But at election hustings at the Hampstead Synagogue in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead last week, Helena Paul, who is standing for the Green Party at next month’s polls, said: “Electric cars are not a total answer. First of all the electricity has to come from somewhere, well we won’t go into that but that is a problem, but electric cars do cause particulate problems because of the brakes and the tyres.”

She added: “I did some air monitoring with a group of people a couple of years ago to find out exactly what the situation was and we found it was pretty bad on West End Lane and completely shocking on Finchley Road. When I saw that they were building flats with balconies [on Finchley Road], I thought: goodness these are death balconies. I wonder if people realise. They look wonderful and you’d be tempted to go out and sit there, but it really is dangerous.”

Ms Paul said people needed to be encouraged to abandon cars for short journeys and authorities needed to resolve problems with supermarket delivery lorries.

The Conservatives’ promise of a raft of new charging points for electric cars is a key manifesto pledge as the parties pitch for votes ahead of the elections on May 3.

Phillip Taylor

Phillip Taylor, a Conservative candidate in Fortune Green, told the hustings: “In terms of electric vehicles, that’s the real critical key to not only reduce emissions but to increase the cars and vehicles that have zero emissions. So you can work with Camden Council to replace the fleet of vehicles they’ve got, from diesel to electric and in terms of increasing the electrical vehicle charging points: one of the reasons a lot of people don’t have it [electric cars], is because it is so difficult to leave your car on the road, there are so few. One of our policies is not just to increase the number, not just to double it, but to try and put 2,000 electric vehicle charging points across the borough.”

He added: “You can do this relatively easily, other boroughs have done it. You can install them in the lampposts so you don’t create street clutter but you do give people the incentive to buy low emission, zero emission cars, and that would create an immediate impact across the borough.”

The political parties are all putting forward pledges to crack down on engine idling, expand low emission zones and better manage school run traffic as part of measures to tackle Camden’s polluted air. The discussion began when a member of the audience warned that people were finding it difficult to breathe in the borough, particularly asthma sufferers.

Lorna Russell

Lorna Russell, a Labour councillor in Fortune Green, told the meeting, organised by the West Hampstead Amenity Transport Group and the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, that her party had set the council on the way to meeting the most stringent World Health Organisation limits on pollution.

She said: “Camden Labour is taking real action to tackle air quality. However, the biggest threat that I can see to air quality in this area comes from the Tory-run Barnet council. In February, Barnet Council proposed a planning application that will see an increase from 400 to 800 HGVs every single day coming in and out of the site in Cricklewood. And this will mean that the number of lorries that will come down the A5 and the A41 will be massively increased, and this will cause even more cars coming down Fordwych Road and West End Lane. This is something that is absolutely unacceptable.”

She added: “I spoke against this issue at Barnet’s planning committee, and I’ve also written to the Mayor of London to say that I hope he can intervene to stop this proposal. I do want to say: Compare Camden Labour’s plans to sort of what you get under Tory Barnet and hopefully that shows we are trying to make a difference.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Flick Rea said: “My theory actually is that it’s people that are the problem. People cause pollution because they choose, unwisely, to move about. If we all stayed still, pollution would be at a minimum, but we don’t. When you get a bit older, if somebody offers you a lift for a short journey you are only too grateful not to have to walk down the road. So when you start talking about stopping all car journeys, which actually I’d be quite happy if they did because I live by the bus route, but an awful lot of people don’t and so we have to be very careful about looking after people who are more disadvantaged. “

Flick Rea

She added: “There are probably thousands of people who get into the car in the morning however without thinking about it, to ferry their children to school. In fact, I remember a campaign about parking places outside schools run by somebody who lived in NW3. She said she didn’t want people parking outside her house during the school run. And I said ‘where does your son go to school?’ and it turned out to be a nice little school in Brent. I said ‘how does he get there’ and she said ‘well I drive him’. So I said ‘but you are doing to Brent what you say people are doing to Camden, you’re driving him to school’. This doesn’t make sense.”

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